W.F. West Hall of Fame to Welcome Four New Members Friday
By Matt Baide
The W.F. West Coaches Hall of Fame will welcome four new members soon as Tim Kindle, John Eklund, Denny Daniels and Russ Lunders will all be inducted at a ceremony on Friday.
The ceremony will be at 5:15 p.m. at W.F. West High School, with a social beginning at 5 p.m. before the ceremony starts. There will also be a Hall of Fame ceremony during halftime of the Hudson’s Bay-W.F. West football game.
Each coach excelled in his individual coaching career, and a few are being inducted for their work performed together.
Lunders was the head Bearcat baseball coach from 1976 to 1983, but left his largest mark on the school by starting — and coaching — the fastpitch program from 1991 through the 2002 season. He was also an assistant football coach for 15 years and spent his entire 31-year career teaching and coaching in Chehalis.
“I’m very humbled and excited to be included in the W.F. West Coaches Hall of Fame,” Lunders said in an email. “To be included with those coaches that preceded me and those that are being inducted with me is such an special and personal honor.”
Lunders coached the Bearcat fastpitch team to four league and district titles, as well as a state championship in 2000, second-place finishes in 1996, 2001 and 2002, and a third-place finish in 1997.
“I would like to personally thank all the coaches, present and past that I have had the pleasure of coaching with all these years. Those special relationships are treasured forever,” said Lunders. “But also to all the many athletes that I have coached, a sincere and profound thank you for the privilege of being your coach. I always strived for you to be the very best you could be. Your commitment and involvement in Bearcat athletics made us all very proud.”
Kindle was an assistant coach for a handful of sports for what amounted to 66 combined seasons of work. He spent 30 years on the football sidelines, 20 seasons on the boys and girls basketball benches and 18 seasons coaching baseball and fastpitch. The latter included a stint on Lunders’ fastpitch staff, where he was an assistant for all five state trips from 1996 to 2002.
He was also an assistant to head girls basketball coach Kerry Abbott, whose teams won two league and district championships and placed in the state tournament in 1994 and 1995.
Kindle will be the first Bearcat alum inducted into the Hall.
“I feel very honored and was surprised to be included since all my (years) coaching in Chehalis were as an assistant. To go into this hall of fame along with three great friends makes it even more special,” Kindle said in an email. “It had to be as a coach because I never would have made it into a hall of fame based on athletic accomplishments.”
Kindle credited his four Bearcat football coaches, all of which he’ll join in the Hall, for being significant figures in his coaching career. He thanked coaches Tom Smith and Rod Giske for shaping his life and career.
He said there were too many special players to name, but particularly enjoyed coaching his daughters during their fastpitch years.
Eklund and Daniels were a big reason why the W.F. West wrestling program is where it’s at today. Daniels was a teacher and counselor at W.F. West for 31 years. In his coaching tenure, he was the assistant wrestling coach for 14 years and then the head coach for 16 years. He also was an assistant football coach for 23 years.
During his time as the wrestling head coach, he was named the State 2A coach of the year in 1997 and was inducted into the Washington State Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2002. In 2013, he was inducted to the National Wrestling Hall of Fame for his 40 years of service to wrestling.
His W.F. West wrestling teams had a dual meet record of 177-40 while winning nine league and district titles as well as three regional titles. He coached seven different wrestlers to a total of 10 state championships and had 41 wrestlers place at state during his tenure.
Daniels noted he is most proud of promoting the wrestling program and establishing lasting relationships with many other coaches at W.F. West and around the state and with athletes who he had the opportunity to coach.
Eklund was a teacher at Chehalis Middle School for 30 years. He coached football for 30 years and was named the District 4 coach of the year in 1999. He started the middle school track program in 1972.
Eklund’s biggest contribution to Chehalis was in wrestling. Eklund was the Chehalis Middle School coach for 40 years, including a streak of 30 consecutive winning seasons. His tutelage contributed to 11 undefeated seasons and 15 league titles. He coached nine high school state champions and 60 state placers. His 1990 team was the WIAA Academic Middle School state champions.
“I consider it a great honor to be selected to the Hall of Fame and I thank the many athletes and their parents over the years that made it possible,” Eklund said.
Eklund was recognized as the regional middle school coach of the year four times and was inducted into the Washington State Wrestling Coaches Hall of Fame in 2015.
Eklund currently serves as the announcer at W.F. West wrestling matches.
“I especially want to thank my assistant coaches. In football they were Paul Gjelten, Mike Keen and Tom Zuber,” Eklund said. “In wrestling they include Ken Davis, Mark Thummel, Bob Byrd, JT Eklund, Jim Alexander and Jack White.”