Wrestling grant legislation named for late Sequim firefighter

Gov. Jay Inslee, center, signs Substitute Senate Bill No. 5687 on April 25 — legislation called the Charles Cate II Act that bolsters the creation and support of postsecondary wrestling grant programs. Joining Inslee are Cate's son Charley and wife Renee. Behind Inslee is primary bill sponsor Sen. Kevin Van De Wege and Sequim wrestling advocate Randall Tomaras, along with wresters and wrestling advocates. At far right is SHS wrestling coach Steve Chinn. (Randy Tomaras/Gov. Jay Inslee's office)

OLYMPIA — The legacy left by Charles “Chad” Cate II was there on the massive, polished desk, and — literally — in the governor’s lap.

When Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday signed into law the Charles Cate II Act — creating a competitive grant program for two-and four-year college intercollegiate wrestling — he did so with Cate’s son Charley lending a small hand to the signature.

Chad Cate

Chad Cate

Cate, a firefighter with Clallam County Fire District 3 and known in the Sequim community for his coaching the Sequim High wrestling program, died in his sleep on Jan. 12. He was 46.

“This bill means so much to my family and me because it is named after my late husband and it is something that he was extremely passionate about,” Cate’s wife Renee Cate said last week.

Renee Cate and wrestlers from the Sequim High team joined young Charley, along with other state wrestling advocates in Olympia to witness the bill signing in person.

“He would be so happy to see it happening!” Renee Cate said.

“The kids he’s coached are always going to remember him,” Inslee said.

Sponsored by state Sen. Kevin Van De Wege of Port Angeles, the bill (SB 5687) received strong support from state legislators, passing in the Senate 49-0 on March 2 and in the House, 80-17, on April 12.

“The purpose of the post-secondary wrestling grant program is to provide funding to institutions of higher education to establish or maintain intercollegiate wrestling programs,” the bill notes.

“Grant funds may be allocated on a one-time or once every four-year basis dependent on the needs of the program and may be used for purposes including, but not limited to, support of one-time start-up costs, equipment, and student scholarships.”

Grant costs are “indeterminate and subject to appropriations for the grant program,” while staffing would cost an additional $143,000 in 2023-25, and $66,000 each in 2025-27 and 2027-29, according to the fiscal note at leg.wa.gov.

Randall Tomaras, a Sequim photographer with a long background in wrestling, said he asked Cate to set up a meeting with Van De Wege to talk about the funding — or lack thereof — for wrestling at the collegiate levels in Washington state.

Tomaras had in recent years helped get national Hall of Fame grappler Gene Mills and other wrestling figures to host wrestling camps in Sequim.

“I said to Chad, ‘OK, it’s payback time,’” Tomaras joked last week, recalling the meeting.

Tomaras outlined for Van De Wege the struggles of not having post-secondary wrestling programs in Washington state. Half of post-secondary students who participate in wrestling programs eventually coach high school wrestling, and 25 percent will teach as well, according to committee testimony.

And without that Tomaras said, Washington state simply loses out on coaches and teachers.

“We have [about] 186 wrestlers every year go out of state to wrestle over a five-year period; that’s $78 million in tuition,” Tomaras said last week.

Less than 39 percent of the wrestling coaches in state of Washington are employed in the school system, he said, whereas basketball and football coaches are at about 90 percent each.

“They presented me with a problem and then I came … with a solution after the session started,” Van De Wege said in March. “[Chad] was very passionate about wrestling.”

Three days after the trio’s conversation, Tomaras said, Cate died in his bunk. (An autopsy showed he expired of natural causes from cardiovascular disease, Clallam County Deputy Coroner Nathan Millet said.)

“Flabbergasts us all,” Tomaras said.

Cate was a fellow fire district captain Van De Wege had known for 22 years.

“He was another captain on my ship,” Van De Wege recalled.

‘Sport for all’

Tomaras, a longtime wrestling advocate, said the goal of the initial legislation is simple: help schools get a coach (that’s what makes a program, he said), some wrestling mats, some uniforms and funds for transportation to various competitions.

He noted there’s a certain level of irony about the disappearance of wrestling in Washington state.

About 30 years ago, Tomaras noted, many state programs got cut because of Title IX, which along with other state and federal laws prohibit discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender expression, pregnant or parenting status and LGBTQ identity.

Three decades later, Washington state’s wrestling rosters look quite different.

“We’re the epicenter for women’s wrestling,” Tomaras said.

“It’s a sport for everybody,” he said, testifying that the state about 3,000 women wrestling last year.

“We’re thankful the women’s programs are going so well,” Tomaras said, adding that because girl/women participation in the state is so strong, the bill received strong support.

It didn’t hurt the bill’s cause that, along with Tomaras (representing Restore University Wrestling in Washington State), legislators received testimony from Sally Roberts, a former elite wrestler and founder/CEO of the popular Wrestle Like A Girl organization.

“We didn’t have the women participating [in wrestling]; we wouldn’t have passed it, Tomaras said.

“Title IX took us out of it, and is putting us back in it. It’s been a full circle.”

Some state colleges and universities have wrestling club programs, but most are student-led and have varying levels of participation, Tomaras said.

Wrestling advocates with Evergreen College (Olympia) announced at about the same time they were starting a program and were seeking funding, but Tomaras said the legislation was shifted to offer a grant program for all schools.

“We grandfathered them in [but] we want to make sure that it goes to more than one college,” Tomaras said.

He said he expects to see schools such as the University of Washington, Central Washington University and Western Washington University to take advantage of the legislation. He said he’s also looking at getting businesses to matching funds for wrestling programs.

“If universities just look at it from a tuition standpoint, and give the students what they are asking for then I think there’s some pretty good possibilities get one more two more programs going,” he said.

About Cate

Cate, a 1994 Sequim High School graduate, began serving as a volunteer firefighter in 1994, was hired by the fire district in 1996 as firefighter/EMT, added “paramedic” to his qualifications in 2001, and was promoted to the rank of captain in 2021.

Cate was named Sequim High School’s head varsity wrestling coach midway through the 2019-2020 season, to help rebuild the program.

According to Fire District 3 officials, Cate was last seen with a firefighter crew responding to a fire alarm activation at a commercial building at about 2:25 a.m. on Jan. 12; following the call, the crew returned to the station and went to bed.

Later, after apparently heading back out to the site of an earlier house fire in the Dungeness neighborhood, he texted a fellow captain and the duty chief at about 4 a.m. to say that all was well at the scene, fire officials said.

Cate was discovered deceased in his bunk by members of his crew when they attempted to wake him at about 7 a.m., according to a fire district press release.

His death is only the second recorded death of a Sequim firefighter while in the line of duty; on Aug. 30, 1978, Dale Kruse sacrificed his life while serving his community as a volunteer captain for the Sequim Fire Department.

Hundreds of friends, coworkers and others filled the Sequim High School gymnasium at a memorial for Cate in late January.

________

Michael Dashiell is the editor of the Sequim Gazette of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which also is composed of other Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum. Reach him at editor@sequimgazette.com.

Gov. Jay Inslee, center, signs Substitute Senate Bill No. 5687 on April 25 — legislation called the Charles Cate II Act that bolsters the creation and support of postsecondary wrestling grant programs. Joining Inslee are Cate’s son Charley and wife Renee. Behind Inslee is primary bill sponsor Sen. Kevin Van De Wege and Sequim wrestling advocate Randall Tomaras, along with wresters and wrestling advocates. At far right is SHS wrestling coach Steve Chinn. (Randy Tomaras/Gov. Jay Inslee’s office)

Gov. Jay Inslee, center, signs Substitute Senate Bill No. 5687 on April 25 — legislation called the Charles Cate II Act that bolsters the creation and support of postsecondary wrestling grant programs. Joining Inslee are Cate’s son Charley and wife Renee. Behind Inslee is primary bill sponsor Sen. Kevin Van De Wege and Sequim wrestling advocate Randall Tomaras, along with wresters and wrestling advocates. At far right is SHS wrestling coach Steve Chinn. (Randy Tomaras/Gov. Jay Inslee’s office)

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