Hall Calls for SHS Coach Rich Morton
It’s the kind of honor that makes you look back on everything.
Rich Morton’s still coaching at the modified level, along with helping out Salamanca’s varsity wrestlers. But with his induction to the The National Wrestling Hall of Fame of the New York State Chapter, Morton reflected on his 36-year career.
“Certainly I’m toward the end of my career, a few more years before I retire,” he said. “Any time you receive an award like that, recognizing your achievements over the years, it does give you time to sit back and reflect on all the things that have been positive that have happened.”
Morton deferentially credited the many individuals around his wrestling program.
“From my perspective, me being inducted is reflective of all the people around me that are probably equally important in this award as I am,” Morton noted. “Without the people that I had that surrounded me, including my assistant coaches, parents, booster club, of course all the wrestlers I had, great athletes that I’ve been fortunate to work with.
“Although I’m receiving the award, I don’t think without all that, I would be able to achieve and accept it.”
A press release announcing the class by chapter president Carl Koenig detailed Morton’s many coaching accomplishments in Salamanca since arriving in 1980 to teach physical education and coach.
Morton earned his Bachelor’s of Science degree in physical education in l980 from Ithaca College, and his Masters of Education from St. Bonaventure University in l984. He currently serves as an athletic director. He won “Teacher of the Year” in 2009 selected by the student National Honor Society.
Morton wrestled at Olean High School, then to Ithaca College, where he twice qualified for the Div. III NCAA championships and placed fifth (167 pounds) at the New York State Collegiate Championships.
His coaching accomplishments include an Olean Times Herald Sportsperson of the Year early on in his career, the Cattaraugus County Sports Hall of Fame (2010) and Western New York Wrestling Hall of Fame (2015).
Under Morton, the Warriors’ wrestling team has won league championships, class and sectional championships and the 2003-04 Section 6 team title. He’s guided 61 individual class and league champions, 21 Section 6 champions and 15 New York State place winners, including a pair of two-time state champions: Kane Smith, the 189 champion in 2004 and 2005, and Ben Haas (currently wrestling for Lehigh University), the 145-pound champ in 2011 and at 152 in 2012.
He won several Southern Tier League Coach of the Year award, the 2001-02 Big 30 Coach of the Year, 2003 Post-Journal Coach of the Year and Western New York Coaches Association/Section 6 Coach of the Year.
He ran the Salamanca Invitational Wrestling Tournament for decades along with summer camps, promoting and advocating for the sport.
Morton also saw success on the football field, leading Salamanca to three undefeated regular seasons (24-0). His teams made the state finals in 1999 and semifinals in 2001. In this span, he won a NFL/Buffalo Bills coach of the week (2000), Big 30 Coach of the Year (2001) and Western New York Coach of the Year (2001).
One of the highlights of Morton’s career has been “To see kids become state champions and state place-winners and even the kids that didn’t make it to the state tournament because we had a lot that were runner-up years ago before they had the wild card selection that lost by a point in the finals.”
However the greatest reward to Morton has been watching students go on to success beyond the wrestling mat or the football field.