Mike Hanchett’s name has been synonymous with wrestling in the Edmonds community for more than four decades.
For 29 years, Hanchett coached at College Place Middle School, Edmonds High School and Edmonds-Woodway High School. He served as an assistant coach for 20 years combined at Edmonds and Edmonds-Woodway under legendary Coach Mike Hess and then for nine years as the head coach at EWHS beginning during the 2000-2001 school year, following Hess’ passing. Although he retired in 2009, Hanchett could still often be found attending the annual Edmonds Invite wresting tournament, where the Coaches Sportsmanship award continues to bear his name.
Hanchett passed away at his Edmonds home on Aug. 16 at the age of 66, and his former wrestlers and colleagues remember him as a coach whose impact went far beyond the mat.
Former Edmonds Mayor Mike Cooper, who currently serves as the public address announcer for the Edmonds-Woodway wrestling squad, first met Hanchett when the two attended school together in Edmonds. Cooper would also go on to coach with Hanchett at College Place Middle School, and recalls Hanchett as a coach who was encouraging and enjoyed sharing his love of the sport.
“He (Hanchett) was focused on helping the kids improve and learning to love the sport,” said Cooper who mentioned that Hanchett also made it a point to not berate an athlete when things didn’t go as planned. “During a match, Mike would calmly walk a kid through his mistakes and finish with a smile.”
Cooper also recalled that Hanchett was always up for learning new methods and techniques, even if it meant putting his own health in danger. Cooper shared a story about when Lynnwood High School alum, legendary wrestler and future movie action star Randy Couture came by the school for a wrestling clinic. “Randy was fresh off winning a medal at the Pan Am Games and was headed to the Olympic Trails. Hanchett volunteered to be Randy’s demonstration dummy. Randy was demonstrating a body lock grip move and he kept asking Hanchett if he could feel it yet. Mike laughed and said ‘Your grip should be tighter.’” At that point, Cooper said, Couture ratchet up the grip and tossed Hanchett to the mat.
“Out of breath, Mike smiled and said ‘That was better,'” Cooper recalled. “I asked Mike why he put himself through that. His answer was, ‘If I can’t experience it, I can’t teach it.'”
It wasn’t uncommon, Cooper added, for Hanchett to serve as a workout partner on the mat for many of the bigger guys that came through the program, and those wrestlers would often find success by “using the famed Hanchett body lock bear hug,” Cooper recalled.
Marcus Requa won a state wrestling championship while at Edmonds High School in 1989. “Coach Hanchett was pretty much the guy that kept me mentally in the game for the last two years of my high school career,” Requa said. “I really don’t think that I was the best wrestler the year I won state. I do, however, believe I was the most mentally prepared wrestler that year. Hanch would walk me through every aspect of the match from the first whistle to getting my hand raised (in victory).”
Now a successful wrestling coach in Stanwood, Requa attributes much of his success to lessons learned from Hanchett. “It was through his example and training that I have molded my coaching and the mental aspects of sports,” he said. “I truly believe that the mental side of any sport is what separates a good athlete from a great athlete. Coach Hanchett will never know the full impact that he had on the sport of wrestling in the state of Washington or how many lives were changed or at least touched by words or actions from Coach.”
Another wrestler Hanchett coached was his son Matt Hanchett, who recalled one of his father’s practice rituals: “Each day we entered the wrestling room, the first thing we would start was a visualization drill. My dad would walk the team through a sequence of how to get into ‘the zone.’ Once there, you would wrestle your upcoming match, making sure you take into account all six senses. The goal was to have wrestled the match several times in your head before you ever stepped foot onto the mat. This way you would know what to expect and the outcome of the match.”
The younger Hanchett recalled telling his dad at the time that he thought he was crazy for implementing this drill at practice, but added he learned to appreciated it much more as he went through life. “This is a skill that I’m glad I learned and still apply today. Turns out he wasn’t crazy after all,” Matt Hanchett said.
In fact, his father was an innovator in all facets of his life and a successful business owner in the Edmonds area, serving for many years as the president/director of research and development at Research Technologies, Matt Hanchett said. The experiences and lessons from the workplace would often eventually get carried over into coaching: “My father was always learning and applying what he learned to himself and his business. Once mastered, he would take these skills into the wrestling room,” his son recalled.
Current EWHS wrestling program head coach Brian Alfi continues to include Hanchett’s drills in the Warriors program. “Coach Hanchett was a big advocate for goal setting and visualization techniques that we still use today,” said Alfi, who was a freshman student wrestler at EWHS when Hanchett became the program’s head coach. Alfi would later go on to become an assistant coach under Hanchett and considered him to be both a mentor and a “father figure.” Alfi said that the two continued to speak monthly and boasted about how Hanchett never received a coach misconduct penalty while coaching.
Hanchett was the oldest of seven children to Miles and Lerrene Hanchett, and was born and raised in Edmonds. He is survived by his six siblings, all of whom still live in and around Edmonds. Survivors also include his wife Lindsay, his sons Matt (Rhea) and Sean, his stepchildren Andrew (Katie), Connor and Sydney, and three grandchildren: Miles, Colton and Cora.
There are no immediate plans for a service at this time. However, Matt Hanchett mentioned that the family hopes to do something in the future once it is safer for everyone to come together to honor the father that meant so much to him and many others. “He is going to be greatly missed” added Matt, “but I find comfort in knowing that he helped shape a generation of wrestlers into better people.”
— By Steve Willits