Former Mesa coach Kralicek respected by peers, athletes
There wasn’t much Bill Kralicek couldn’t handle.
And no coach was respected and admired as much as Kralicek.
The former Mesa State College wrestling head coach and assistant football coach died Saturday at the age of 62.
“I never thought he’d die because he was so tough,” former Mesa football coach Bob Cortese said. “He was the strongest guy I knew. I saw him do things sometimes I thought was impossible.
“We had a lot of arguments. I was always afraid he’d lose his temper and he’d shake me like a rag doll.”
Kralicek is survived by his wife, Gail, two sons, Joe (and wife Amy) of Kansas and Chris (and his wife Shawna) of Grand Junction and four grandchildren.
A memorial celebration will take place Saturday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at The Quality Inn, 2751 Commercial Way, in Montrose. The family requests memorial contributions be made to the Stronghold Youth Foundation, 2631 N. Skyline Drive, Bloomington, Ind., 47404, instead of flowers or plants.
Kralicek graduated from Olathe High School and was an Academic All-American at the University of Colorado in football and wrestling.
“My first recollection of Bill Kralicek was years earlier when he came back from CU,” said one of his assistant wrestling coaches, Monte Griffith. “He was good enough to be drafted. He could’ve made it in the NFL.”
Kralicek turned his focus to teaching and coaching.
Cortese hired Kralicek four times throughout his coaching career, starting at a high school in Thornton. Cortese brought Kralicek to Mesa to coach the offensive and defensive lines in 1980.
“We did a lot of coaching together,” Cortese said. “He was an excellent O-line coach. He had a great rapport with his kids. His fundamentals and techniques were superior.
“Everything was black and white with him. Right or wrong, no in between. He was from the old school. He stood by his guns. He was an honorable man and loyal soldier.”
The Mavericks won six RMAC titles in 10 years while Kralicek was there.
“I remember our players coming off the field and telling him (the opponent) wasn’t doing what they saw on film,” former Mesa Athletic Director Jay Jefferson said. “He would change the whole defensive scheme on the sidelines, and we would blow them away.
“He was the best line coach in Colorado, maybe several states at the time. He was excellent on technique. He established defensive schemes. He was very good at that.”
Jefferson was Mesa’s AD from 1980 to 1992.
In addition to coaching football, Kralicek took over the wrestling program in 1984.
The Mavericks took third three times in Kralicek’s seven seasons as the head coach. He coached eight All-Americans, more than any wrestling coach in Mesa history.
“He was hard-nosed,” Griffith said. “He was outstanding with the upper weights. He was not a rah-rah guy.”
“He wrestled (former Fruita Monument state champion) Dean Hall when he was in high school,” Griffith added. “Kralie beat him at a freestyle tournament at Orchard Mesa Middle School. The gym was packed. He was an out-of-shape football player. I will never forget it. He beat Dean Hall and said, ‘I couldn’t lose to a high school kid.’ “
Palisade High School teacher and wrestling coach Brian Rush wrestled for Kralicek.
“The best thing (is) he was really straight-forward with you,” Rush said. “He was a guy you had a lot of respect for and a lot of trust. I know a lot of the football players that played for him, liked him a lot. He did a good job with sports, but he was a good person, too.”
Rush wrestled at Mesa from 1988 to 1990 and was an All-American his junior year. An injury cost Rush an opportunity to wrestle at nationals his senior year.
“(Kralicek) related with the kids very well,” Jefferson said. “He gained their respect because of his knowledge. Those players respected him. He had their utmost attention.”
Kralicek coached the Mesa State wrestling team until 1991, when the program was dropped.
“It was a hard thing for him when they dropped the program,” Griffith. “That broke his heart.”
“The program was about to be cut before. They didn’t have a full team. Kralie came in and in a couple years they were competitive. Kralie did an outstanding job.”