Wrestling communities in the Valley and throughout Northern California were jolted by the tragic death of Roger “Deets” Winslow, who was killed in a boating accident last Saturday, Aug. 9, at Lake Berryessa in Napa County.
It was shocking news to his family, and to the many people who knew and worked with Winslow in the Valley, especially at Sonoma Valley High School where he was a wrestling legend as both an athlete and longtime coach.
Winslow left a wrestling legacy that reverberated through California and into neighboring states. After establishing himself as a tough, technically efficient and highly competitive prep and college wrestling star, Winslow went on to become an accomplished high school coach, teacher and mentor at SVHS.
All sports have their unique cultures and fraternities of fans, but there exists in the world of wrestling a contagious passion for the sport that injects a sense of family into all its participants – the wrestlers, the coaches, the officials, the relatives and the fans.
This was Winslow’s world.
It started in the early 1980s when Deets’ father and name-sake, Roger Winslow, revitalized Sonoma wrestling and took it to a new level, including multiple Sonoma County League championships in 1984, ’85, ’86 and ’87, developing numerous North Coast Section standouts and state qualifiers, including his sons Deets and Travis.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Winslow took the grappling head-coaching helm and Sonoma wrestling never missed a beat.
Winslow – along with main assistant coaches Monty Schiestel, his high school teammate who coached under him the first 15 years, and Kyle Baird, the former head coach who took over for Winslow when he retired in 2010 – guided his Dragon teams to nine more SCL titles.
Winslow led Sonoma to five straight championships from 1993 to 1997, plus 2003, 2004, and back-to-back crowns in 2008 and 2009. He also capturing the school’s first North Coast Section wrestling banner as the NCS Redwood Empire Team Duals champion.
Between the father and son Winslows, the Dragons claimed their own Valley of the Moon Classic tournament crown eight times. And just as his father had the opportunity to coach his two sons, Winslow also got to coach his two sons, along with his daughter in other sports.
Winslow’s coaching philosophy and techniques, and his ever-present passion for the sport, inspired the young wrestlers he guided, many of whom stayed involved in the sport, giving back what they got by becoming coaches or working the mats as officials.
The outpouring of condolences and tributes following Winslow’s death, includes the following statements from those who knew, worked, or benefited from him.
“Deets and I first met when we were 8 years old, and we have been close friends ever since. I was honored when he asked me to be his assistant coach, and we had 15 great years together,” said Monty Schiestel. “Deets was not one to waste one moment of life being idle. If he wasn’t coaching, he was playing softball, or bowling, or boating, or golfing, or spending time at one of his children’s sporting events. I can’t even imagine the number of lives he has touched on and off the mat. He was more than a friend – I considered him my brother.”