LUSK – When you ask those familiar with high school athletics in Wyoming to make a list of the most famous coaches to ever patrol the sideline or hardwood, the Stat Rat ventures that these three mentors would appear on just about everyone’s list: C. H. ‘Okie’ Blanchard, Oscar ‘Swede’ Erickson and John Deti Sr.
Although all coached at school’s way larger than Niobrara County High School, interestingly enough, Lusk and Manville have a record against each of the three legends.
Okie Blanchard Stadium in Cheyenne bears the name of Wyoming’s most successful high school coach. Although most of his victories and state championships are associated with Cheyenne, he found success wherever he coached, beginning in Glenrock in 1925, then in Cokeville, followed by almost a decade in Rock Springs, then three years in Casper, before his quarter century plus leading the Indians in the Capital City.
Okie coached all the major sports – football, basketball, and track – and he’s responsible for over thirty state championship banners. His Wyoming Coaches Association Hall of Fame biography credits him with 862-192-7 overall record (149-55-7 of that in football). Like Coaches Deti and Erickson, he was part of the initial group selected for enshrinement there in 1984.
Most hoop fans associate Oscar “Swede” Erickson as Wyoming’s most successful junior college coach, however Swede cut his teeth as a high school coach, beginning in Midwest and then at Casper Natrona – the “other” NCHS, that is – before becoming the Casper College Thunderbirds’ head coach in 1958.
Swede’s teams saw some success in his seven years as a high school coach, winning a state hoops championship in 1955 with NCHS. His years at Casper College are legendary and his T-Birds were a dominant force in Region IX hoops, winning the regional championship nine times with Swede at the helm. Erickson posted a 638-220 record at CC. At the NJCAA National Tournament, the Thunderbirds finished as high as third in 1963 and second in 1964. When the state’s best 2A basketball teams play their opening round games at state tourney, it is usually at Casper College in Swede Erickson Gym.
Coach John Deti Sr. has a venue named after him as well, Deti Stadium at Laramie High School. When the “Gray Fox” retired from football coaching in 1977, he stood number one in Wyoming prep football wins with a 205-94-8 record on the gridiron. Since that time only Cokeville’s Todd Dayton (340) and Natrona’s Steve Harshman (212) have topped that number. Coach Jerry Fullmer is No. 5 on the list with 174 victories.
Coach Deti’s Laramie Plainsmen won 14 state football championships and once had a winning streak of 34 consecutive games, stretching from 1959 to 1963.
Like most coaches pre-WWII, Deti coached all the school’s sports, starting first in Encampment in 1940, moving to Meeteetse for a year in 1941. He then coached in Shoshoni in 1942 before being employed by Laramie beginning in 1944.
Given that all three coaches were extremely successful, how did the Lusk Tigers/Manville Panthers/ NCHS Tigers do versus this stellar trio of sideline mentors? Not all that great, but the results are still sprinkled with a few pleasant surprises as the results chart show.