Former Placer High wrestler Lewis to coach at the Olympics
Shon Lewis, a graduate of Placer County High School, will head to the Olympics later this month not as an athlete, but as a leader.
Lewis, 45, currently lives in Colorado Springs, Colo., but during the end of his high school wrestling career, he was just starting to blossom into a talented athlete who would one day be ranked coach of the year four times.
Now he will travel to London on the coaching staff of the Greco-Roman Olympic wrestling team.
Bill Flake, who is retired now, coached Lewis during his junior and senior years at Placer. He says it wasn't until later, after Lewis turned to Greco-Roman wrestling.
"He's as quick as a cat, you know? He was young, so we worked on him and he had a decent junior year and a very good senior year," Flake said.
After he graduated from Placer County High, Lewis attended the University of Oregon before he joined the Army. There he would go on to win six Armed Forces Greco-Roman titles and compete in the World Military Championships.
He was also the US Nationals Greco-Roman champion four times and was a medalist in three US Olympic Team Trials.
Now, in addition to heading to London with the Olympic Greco-Roman wrestling team, Lewis is the head coach for the Army Greco-Roman team.
Of the six weight classes the US team qualified for this year, three of the wrestlers are from Lewis' Army team. They are Spenser Mango, who is in the 121-pound class; Justin Lester, who is in the 145-pound class; and Dremiel Byers, who is in the 264-pound class.
"I'm real familiar with everyone on the team," Lewis said. "We feel real comfortable with each other."
Lewis was also an Olympic coach for the Greco-Roman wrestling team in 2004 in Athens, Greece. He said the preparation is tough, but the competition itself can be brutal.
"I'm feeling good, but we've got to lace them up for the toughest tournament in the world," Lewis said. "A lot of people are willing to die for a medal. We've got to hope our guys are ready to compete that day."
Lewis' experience goes beyond his time in the Army as a coach and athlete. He has also coached US World Teams, squads that have gone to the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, and has been named Greco-Roman coach of the year by USA Wrestling four times.
In 2010, Lewis was inducted in the California Wrestling Hall of Fame.
That's the last time he saw his previous coach, Flake, who is also a member of the hall of fame. Lewis said he would like to make it back to visit Auburn sometime, but that will have to wait.
He's got a few weeks of training with his team until they leave for London on July 22. The Greco-Roman wrestling competition starts at 1 p.m. on Aug. 5.
"I haven't been back to Placer County in several years, but I'm looking forward to getting back there and reuniting with some of the guys and gals I went to school with," Lewis said.
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