RCHS hosts wrestling tournament named for ‘father’ of the program

SAM SOBECK'S opponent bridges to temporarily avoid being pinned at the Marquette Challenge last week. Sobeck eventually pinned Comstock's Tristan Gore at 1:26. He and his teammates will be in action at the Bill Barrett Memorial Tournament Tuesday.(Photos by Joanne Sobeck)
SAM SOBECK’S opponent bridges to temporarily avoid being pinned at the Marquette Challenge last week. Sobeck eventually pinned Comstock’s Tristan Gore at 1:26. He and his teammates will be in action at the Bill Barrett Memorial Tournament Tuesday. (Photos by Joanne Sobeck)

by Richard Lamb–Advance Editor

Rogers City High School hosts the annual Bill Barrett Memorial wrestling tournament  Dec 27. Five teams are featured in this event as wrestling begins at 9 a.m. Coach George Sobeck and his team will host the event, a staple of the holiday season.

Here is the schedule:
ROUND # 1
Alpena vs Sault Ste. Marie…MAT 1; St. Ignace vs Rogers City…MAT 2
DeTour–BYE
ROUND # 2
St. Ignace vs Sault Ste. Marie…MAT 1; Alpena vs DeTour…MAT 2
Rogers City– BYE
ROUND # 3
Sault Ste. Marie vs DeTour…MAT 1; Alpena vs RC…MAT 2
St. Ignace–BYE
ROUND #4
Alpena vs St. Ignace…MAT 1; DeTour vs Rogers City…MAT 2
Sault Ste. Marie–BYE
ROUND #5
DeTour vs St. Ignace…MAT 1; Sault Ste. Marie vs Rogers City…MAT 2

The tournament is named for the late Bill Barrett, the “father” of the Rogers City wrestling program. The Rogers City Invitational was renamed in 2001 by then-coach Pat Lamb in honor of his mentor, who had died in January of that year.

Bill Barrett is photographed in his home for a story about him prior to his ride as grand marshal of the 1991 Nautical City Festival grand parade.
Bill Barrett is photographed in his home for a story about him prior to his ride as grand marshal of the 1991 Nautical City Festival grand parade.

Barrett came to Rogers City as a teacher in 1960 and started the wrestling program in 1970. He was inducted into the Michigan Wrestling association Hall of Fame in 2000.

His students remember Mr. Barrett for his unique teaching style, which included many 200-word themes. Students remember his passion for teaching, for the United States and for his huge collection of political and historical books at his home.

A graduate of Mackinaw City High School and Hillsdale College, Barrett taught high school in Pellston and Alcona before arriving in Rogers City. Upon doctor’s orders, he retired from teaching in 1989 after retiring from the varsity coaching job in 1983.

Jim Connell, principal of Rogers City High School at the time of Barrett’s passing, called him “boisterous and opinionated, but he touched a lot of lives in a positive way.”

The late Warren Gleason, who took over the wrestling program after Barrett’s health forced him to quit in 1983 after 13 years as coach (143-38-3), said he considered it a favor that Barrett picked him as successor.

“He was really a good teacher. People who didn’t have him missed out on a good thing,” Gleason said in 2001. Gleason retired after the 1999 season (289-70-2) and passed away in 2015. His teams won 13 consecutive district titles.

Former coach Pat Lamb, who took over after Gleason retired, had Barrett as a teacher and coach in the mid-1970s. Lamb’s teams kept the district title streak alive at 22 straight, which ended in 2008. The team peaked in 2005 as Lamb coached it to the runner-up spot at the state tournament. Lamb’s teams  won 16 team district titles and seven regional championships.

Bill Barrett rode in the 1991 Nautical City Festival grand parade as grand marshal. (Photo by Richard Lamb)
Bill Barrett rode in the 1991 Nautical City Festival grand parade as grand marshal. (Photo by Richard Lamb)

“What Mr. Barrett stressed is that it’s not all about winning and losing, but about the way you go about doing things. It’s about effort, heart and desire,” Lamb said.

Years after his retirement, Barrett remained a presence at wrestling meets, lending a hand where he could by offering advice when asked, taking photos for the trophy case or offering his drawings to the wrestling community. A series of his drawings appeared in a fundraising calendar in 2000.

The community honored him as grand marshal of the 1991 Nautical City Festival grand parade. He was inducted into the Michigan Wrestling association Hall of Fame in 2000.