Wichita mourns sudden death of Northwest HS wrestling coach

Wichita community mourns Northwest wrestling coach Eric Prichard who died suddenly.
Wichita community mourns Northwest wrestling coach Eric Prichard who died suddenly.(KWCH)
Published: Oct. 21, 2020 at 10:02 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - The Wichita community mourns the sudden loss of Northwest High School wrestling coach and social studies teacher, Eric Prichard.

Prichard was a piece of the Grizzlies community for more than 18 years. He died suddenly Tuesday night.

“We knew he’d been sick but it was a big shock that he had passed," Northwest assistant wrestling coach David Nigg said,

Nigg and Ron Russell have coached wrestlers alongside Prichard for years. Prichard coached the Grizzlies to be City League wrestling champs four years in a row, and coaches at least 13 individual state wrestling champions.

“He’s very intense. Definitely a fiery personality and extremely competitive. He never wanted to see a kid quit. He never wanted to see a kid not give everything he had out on the mat," said Russell, also a teacher at Northwest.

“When he first got here, they had 15 kids. Now they have over 60 always," Nigg said when talking about the turnout for Northwest wrestling.

Nigg said he considers Prichard a son and recalls coaching him since he was in 7th grade through his senior year at Wichita South. After college, Prichard returned to coach under Nigg at South. Prichard then coached at Valley Center before settling at Northwest.

“My jaw dropped when I got the text message," Northwest’s basketball coach Andrew Hill said of receiving the news that Prichard died.

Prichard not only coached wrestling, he previously assisted with the Grizzlies football and baseball programs.

“We made it to state and usually coaches in the dugout, we give high fives to each other and congratulate each other and I’m hitting one assistant coach up and I’m looking for coach Prichard. He’s out there on the dogpile with the players. Right then I knew, this guy is something else," Northwest baseball coach Chris Lambert said.

“His laugh is famous around these hallways and you could hear it three hallways down just billowing and I think it’s what I’ll always remember about him,” Hill said.

Jake Jones is one of Prichard’s former baseball players who remembers his goofiness well.

“Unlike a lot of the athletes, I had a unique, a different relationship with them. He’s actually my cousin," Jones said.

Since graduating from Northwest, Jones followed in his cousin’s footsteps and became a coach using Prichard’s methods as an example.

“He was definitely a role model for what coaches should be striving to do. He actually hooked me up with a ball boy gig when I was a little guy when he was the football assistant,” said Jones.

People from all over Kansas are remembering Prichard through social media tributes, including people he never coached.

Blair Sebastian had Prichard as her freshman year history teacher. The next two years she served as a teaching assistant in Prichard’s class.

On the day of a city league track meet, Prichard gave Sebastian an encouraging post-it note to ease her nerves. She said she’s kept that note in her binder for more than three years to remind herself to always improve.

“Coach Prichard was all for Northwest and supported all of its athletes because he knew the importance of always having someone in your corner. He wanted to be that support system for as many people as he could. I know for a fact he loved every moment of being a Grizzly," Sebastian said.

Prichard’s absence will be felt in more than just the Northwest community. Aaron Haselwood, wrestling coach at Wichita East said, “I think that the community outpouring of love and support for Coach Prichard speaks to who he was as a coach and father figure to so many.”

Haselwood coached with Prichard for a short period before coaching against him. He said the whole wrestling community is hurting after Eric Prichard’s death.

“Coach Prichard was a competitor and he wouldn’t accept anything less than your best at all times, he held his wrestlers to high standards which is evident in their continued success,” said Haselwood. “The wrestling community will continue to mourn his death and send up prayers for his wife and children as God wraps his loving arms around their family.”

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