Los Angeles, CA – The Celebration for The Life & Legacy of Joe Seay took place at Morro Bay, California on Saturday, October 5, 2019. Cheryl Seay, and the family of Joe Seay, invited its wrestling community of family, friends, alumni and colleagues to witness the aerial scattering of Joe’s ashes which took place at exactly 1:00 pm over the post surrealist Daliesque Morro Bay Rock. Coach Seay’s Celebration of Life immediately followed its ceremony at Moonstone Cellars in Cambria, CA from approximately 2:30 pm until dusk where friends gathered to remember his great name, his legacy and shared through first person narrative.. Coach Joe Seay, was an enigma, a NCAA Championship Coach and a Distinguished Member who was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1998, and passed away early on Thursday morning the 11th of July, at 2:37am at the age of 80.
Seay accomplished many accolades during his golden years, leading an unforgettable life with a more unforgettable story. It was Coach Seay who reached the pinnacle of unattainable top NCAA Collegiate and International Freestyle Wrestling. Today his accomplishments will live on as the very touchstone of his legacy.
Late at night during the hot summer month of July, it was his wife Cheryl Seay who urgently contacted his wrestling community through texts that Joe was on his final journey in hospice on a hospital bed in the family living room. On Friday he was given only hours to live but like a true wrestler who battled to fight on versus his most formidable and fearless opponent in the closing seconds of a final match against Mortality. Cheryl messaged her rather large community of dear friends and wrestling alumni expressing, “He is totally unresponsive, I will keep you updated but the end is in sight. So sorry.”
Yes, the balance of Coach Joe Seay’s great life of vision was clearly in sight. In reflection it was Seay’s life who was consumed and driven by only one destiny and one purpose to become one of the most successful coaches in the history of our sport of wrestling, determined only to coach the most outstanding individual wrestlers and visionary team titlists. It was the vision of Joe Seay which was wholeheartedly supported by his True Believers which formed his great championship wrestling teams at Cal State-Bakersfield and Oklahoma State to nine NCAA championships, In distinction, Seay was named as Coach of the USA Men’s Wrestling Team where he achieved unheard of victories in the 1990’s scoring gold at the Goodwill Games, followed by the World Championships and than on to the Olympic Games. Seay coached some of the greatest wrestlers in the history of its sport including John Smith, Kenny Monday, Randall Couture, Pat Smith, Jessie Reyes, Chris Barnes, Kendall Cross, Joe Gonzalez, Tim Vanni, John Azevedo Dan and Adam Cuestas, Perry Shea and so many more to name.
Seay’s humbled wrestling career began as a 1964 graduate of Kansas State, where he wrestled Varsity three years in a row, winning three national Greco-Roman crowns and placing second twice in Freestyle.
Starting with his Coaching eight years at Bakersfield South High in California, he compiled a prep record of 177-12-2 and was national high school Coach of the Year. From South High School he was asked to Coach the Cal State Bakersfield Roadrunners, winning seven Division II national championships with a record of 189-56-2. After leaving CSUB he was personally invited by Myron Roderick to Coach Oklahoma State, from 1985 to 1992, he went 114-8-2 with back-to-back NCAA Division I crowns in 1989 and 1990.
His folkstyle record adds up to 480 victories and a winning percentage of 85.9 percent. Seay was the only coach ever in the history of the sport of wrestling to win collegiate NCAA team titles in both divisions of one and two, where he was ultimately named Coach of the Year a magical outstanding five times.
In retrospect of Joe Seay’s great ascent, Cheryl Seay shared her gratitude to the many who attended his memorial through a final abridged correspondence, “Thank you to everyone who attended my husband’s celebration of life on October 5, 2019. To Joe’s wrestling family–You were the family he chose and the sons he never had. You supported Joe throughout his career. You kept in touch over the years, visited our home, and many of you came during the final months of his life. You offered support, held our hands, and shared stories. I know Joe felt your love and support; I certainly did. Dementia is an ugly disease. It took my husband’s life, and at times, his dignity. Joe wanted his legacy to be about the relationships that he made on and off the mat.” Joe said, “The relationships are the things that meant the most to me and still mean the most and I assume they always will and I wouldn’t change those areas at all” (CA Hall of Fame Interview 2000). Your friendships over the years helped Joe fulfill his legacy. John Henry Smithson and Charles Cheney handed me an envelope at the celebration. Inside was money with a note saying, “Here is just a few dollars back for the many free meals Joe bought for us.” This was not necessary, but it did make me smile, as did hearing all the stories. So again, thank you. My daughter, Joe’s stepdaughter, Laura, stated, “Joe seemed invincible throughout his life to me and so many others. While unfortunately, we are here because he wasn’t invincible but his life and legacy and love are. Thank you to everyone who has or will share stories, love and times of Joe’s ornery smiles. We, being his family, find comfort in those moments because through his legacy, he is still invincible.” Joe passed away July 11, while I was holding his hand and kissing him. He died with a smile on his face. My last words to him were “go wrestle with the angels, honey. I love you and I promise, I will find you.”
Like Midas the God who turned everything into gold, Joe Seay’s wrestling career was immortalized as he had a golden touch and it was simply because he was always able to motivate and inspire his wrestlers to perform at levels of immortal excellence…Farewell Coach Joe Seay, ‘nothing could ever touch you during these Golden Years…’
“Don’t let me hear you say life’s taking you nowhere, Look at that sky, life has just begun. Golden Years…“
– Joey Krebs
Photos by Joey Krebs