Longtime wrestling coach Bob Riehm’s estate gives $3M; most will go to scholarships
Legendary Southern Oregon University wrestling coach Bob Riehm’s influence at SOU and within the wrestling program will continue in perpetuity, with a $3 million donation from his estate announced Saturday morning that ranks as the largest-ever single gift to the university.
The bequest was announced by the university and his surviving sisters at a celebration of life held Feb. 5 for Riehm, who passed away in November 2020. A third of the gift will endow the men’s wrestling head coach position at SOU, which will be named for Riehm, and two-thirds will fund scholarships for the team’s wrestlers.
“Bob Riehm expected excellence from his student-athletes during his hall-of-fame career,” said SOU President Rick Bailey, Jr. “He was an exceptional leader, coach and mentor, and we are honored to celebrate his legacy today and into the future.”
Riehm, who died at age 83, coached the school’s wrestling program for 25 years beginning in 1969, winning three national championships and mentoring 100 NAIA All-Americans. He compiled a 270-71-2 career record and has been inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame, the Oregon Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and the SOU Sports Hall of Fame.
“As a coach and mentor, Coach Riehm made an immeasurable impact on the lives of so many student-athletes who came through his program,” SOU Athletic Director Matt Sayre said. “His legacy, first and foremost, will always be that. This gift’s significance is an enduring reminder of his commitment to SOU, the sport of wrestling, our student-athletes and coaches. He will continue to be a positive and tangible contributor to the development of them all.”
Riehm’s first Southern Oregon team went 7-7 in dual matches, but his Raiders teams never again came close to a losing record. His ninth season, in 1977-78, brought the school’s first-ever national title. His team won another title five years later, in an undefeated season capped by back-to-back wins over the University of Oregon and Oregon State University. His team won a third NAIA championship in the 1993-94 season, his last as head coach.
Mike Ritchey, a wrestler coached by Riehm who went on to succeed him as coach and who added more championships (national and regionally), also spoke at the memorial.
The gymnasium inside SOU’s former McNeal Pavilion was named Bob Riehm Arena in 2011, at the conclusion of a fund drive in his honor that raised more than $100,000 for scholarships and equipment. Riehm Arena, now in Lithia Motors Pavilion, continues to serve as the center of competition for the university’s men’s and women’s wrestling teams. Riehm was born in Britt, Iowa, and wrestled at the University of Iowa, where he graduated in 1960.
Besides wrestling, Riehm was very successful in real estate — and at helping others. Several speakers Saturday before hundreds of attendees recalled his passion to help people, especially wrestlers. One instance was when a wrestler lost his father but didn’t have the money to go to the funeral. Riehm gave him the keys to his Coverette and a credit card to allow him to attend the funeral.
Riehm was recalled as larger than life when it came to helping others, mentoring student-athletes, and working to make SOU better. His donation ensures that legacy will continue to have an impact long into the future.
Source: News release from Southern Oregon University, supplemented by reporting from Dennis Powers. Email Ashland.news Executive Editor Bert Etling at firstname.lastname@example.org.