Kary Hadden

After three years as an assistant coach for his alma mater – North Salem High School - Kary Hadden took over a Sprague High School wrestling program in 1989 that hadn't had much success. He turned it into a power. In so doing he also smashed the myths, i.e. excuses, that “explained” why a school like Sprague – largely upper middle class – couldn't be an outstanding wrestling school. Kids from a “wealthy” school lacked the toughness necessary for wrestling. “Too rich”. “Too privileged.” Too soft.” “Rich kids” are more suited to sports not requiring grit. Kary Hadden turned that on its head, by teaching concepts like accountability, hard work, discipline, and sacrifice. He smashed the stereotypes by not only teaching these concepts but living them. In doing so, he unlocked greatness in his athletes. 

Born in 1959, Kary is largely a product of Salem. Except for a short period of time in Cheyenne, Wyoming where he and his dad Jim (now 83) coached both football and wrestling, Salem has been his home. He attended Highland Elementary with 2020 Beacon Rich Herrin and attended Waldo Junior High School where he wrestled for 2018 Beacon Dick Bellock before graduating from North Salem High. While a Viking he was both a football player for his dad – where, as a quarterback, one of his receivers was fellow 2024 Beacon Fred Martin – and a wrestler for his dad as well. 

It was in high school where Kary really began to stand out as a wrestler. As a sophomore (high schools were only grades 10, 11, and 12 in those days) he wrestled varsity at 136 pounds for 2023 Beacon Jerry Lane at McNary and was a member of the '75 Celtic state championship team – the only Salem-Keizer high school wrestling team to win a state wrestling title. As a junior, and now a Viking under the tutelage Bob Buzzard and his dad, Hadden became a district champion. As a senior he again was a district champion but also finished 3rd at the OSAA State Championships as well as 3rd at the State Freestyle Championships, and 2nd at Western Regionals. From North Salem he headed to wrestling 

powerhouse Oregon State University where he was a four-year letterman for one of the great collegiate coaches of all time – Dale Thomas – while earning his Bachelor's degree (1983). He subsequently added a Master's degree from Western Oregon University in 1990. 

Before moving on to become the head wrestling coach at Corban University, Hadden coached both football and wrestling for 27 years at Sprague. An outstanding football coach (he also coached baseball and track), it was wrestling where he really separated himself as a coach. Over his career he had more than 200 dual meet wins. His wrestlers won the conference title 16 times. His team had 17 top-10 finishes at the state OSAA tournament with four trophies. He coached his wrestlers to 72 individual conference titles and 57 State medals including 14 state championships. Nine of his wrestlers became high school All-Americans and 16 went on to wrestle in college. Hadden also was named the conference Coach of the Year 11 times and Oregon Coach of the Year 3 times and was selected to coach the Oregon cultural exchange team and national dual meet team. He was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2013. He also served as both president and vice- president of the Oregon Athletic Coaches Association. 

Coach Hadden gives great credit to mentors like his father Jim Hadden, Jerry Gilman, Dale Thomas, John Horn, Bob Buzzard, Jerry Lane, and Dave Johnson. Through these men “I've learned valuable life lessons.” He also gives credit for much of his success to great assistant coaches with whom he has surrounded himself, men like Rob Bronson, Nolan Harris Doug Hire, Don Tomlin, Michael Cox, Styder Davis. 

Throughout his incredible run as Sprague's head coach, Hadden has tried to create a sense of family. As high school coaches “our job is to encourage, build up, and to challenge athletes to compete at their best” and “to encourage [athletes] to be better [people] off the mat as well”. Kary wanted his athletes to “continue to grow and learn”. A large part of that growth came while teaching the concept of sacrifice - “Anything worth having must be earned, not given.” 

Hadden is also a man guided by faith. “Scripture honors hard work and diligence, a concept often learned through sports that requires perseverance and effort...” And it is clear as one has watched Hadden's wrestlers throughout the years that these values – hard work, diligence, perseverance, and effort – have been cornerstones of his Sprague program. 

Kary has been married to wife Denise for 40 years. “Without her support none of this would have been possible. She's been with me through it all. She has been my rock! Opening our house to all the athletes. Denise drove our young kids all over the state to be there to support me and so our kids knew who their dad was. As mentioned before, in order to have success you must be willing. to sacrifice. Fortunately, my wife and family knew and understood this concept. I can't thank them enough!” The Hadden's have two adult children – Nicole, a 2003 graduate of Sprague and Ryan, a 2006 graduate of Sprague – both of whom were successful high school athletes in their own right. 

Throughout his coaching career, Kary Hadden understood that success – on the mat or otherwise - had to do with what was inside each each athlete. Through the concepts of accountability, hard work, discipline, and sacrifice he had the unique ability to unlock that inner-most competitor in his athletes. He coached them to great athletic success but, more than that, he taught them values that will last for a lifetime. For that he is a Beacon.

By Bryan Sutherland