GLEN ELLEN — When Tyler Winslow was 6 years old, his father told his mother, “I have been a coach for many years and I have seen a lot of kids, but our son is special. Not just because he’s our son, but because he has a gift.”
“Cool,” Heidi Winslow replied, not entirely impressed. “Hopefully, he’ll like wrestling.”
He did. He does. And Tyler’s dad nailed the assessment. The younger Winslow, now a junior at Sonoma Valley High School, just conquered the 220-pound bracket at the North Coast Section wrestling championships. He’s the first Sonoma wrestler in eight years to take first at the NCS meet, and he’ll be competing Friday at the CIF state boys wrestling championships in Bakersfield.
But Winslow’s accomplishments are tinged with sadness. Roger “Deets” Winslow, Sonoma coaching legend and the man who ID’d Tyler as a prodigy so many years ago, will not be there to witness the event. He died in a freak boating accident 3½ years ago, at the age of 49.
“There’s a lot of memories that we could’ve had, that he would’ve been proud of me,” Tyler said, sitting at his dining table at the family home in Glen Ellen. “You think, like, I wish he could have been here for that, to experience that with me.”
Heidi has no doubt what Deets’ reaction would have been. “He’d be bawling like a baby,” she said.
Tyler will be in good hands at Bakersfield. His coach, Nico Saldana, wrestled under Deets Winslow at Sonoma, and the two had worked closely together before Winslow’s death. Oh, and Tyler has some resources in the family, too.
The Winslows are nothing short of wrestling royalty in Sonoma. Deets took over the Sonoma Valley program from his father, also named Roger Winslow. Between the two of them, they coached the Dragons for close to 40 years. Deets’ brother, Travis Winslow, wrestled at Sonoma. And so did Tyler’s older brother, Jordan.
One other tidbit: Roger competed before the CIF tournament existed, but Deets, Travis and Jordan all preceded Tyler at state.
“You didn’t want to be the Winslow who let that down,” Tyler said.
Tyler is bigger than his forebears. His brother, Jordan, went to state at 135 pounds. Grandpa Roger was somewhere around that size. Uncle Travis, Tyler believes, wrestled at 160.
Deets Winslow entered high school at 98 pounds, and eventually wrestled at 119. But man, he was tough.
And he loved the sport. Deets was young, just out of college, when he replaced his dad as Sonoma head coach. He worked as a psychiatric technician at the Sonoma Developmental Center. It’s where he met Heidi, who is still a rehab therapist there.
“That was my first real experience with wrestling, watching him coach,” Heidi Winslow said. “Then he would wrestle with me. And then I told him, ‘We need to have children, because this is not working for me.’”
So they did. Jordan came first. Then a daughter, Kayla, who raised money for improvements in the Sonoma Valley wrestling room as her senior project, and is now a freshman at Chico State. Then Tyler.
Heidi worked a few night shifts in those days. If she punched out and couldn’t find the rest of the family at home, she knew where to look: the wrestling room. Tyler’s earliest lessons were from his dad, in the front room of the house. By the time Tyler was 6, Deets was driving him around to tournaments.
EMPIRE WRESTLERS AT STATE TOURNMENT
Blake Fredrickson, Windsor
Trevor Bagan, Analy
Jose Fernandez III, Upper Lake
Jay Escamilla, Ukiah
Alex Garcia, Kelseyville
Trent Silva, Windsor
Nathan Tyrell, Ukiah
Frankie Pomilia, Ukiah
Nick Wycoff, Cardinal Newman
Tyler Winslow, Sonoma Valley