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In Memoriam Taras Hryb

In Memoriam

Submitted by Ian McDonald with approval from Wendy Hryb.

Taras Hryb (March 27, 1952 - Nov. 25, 2021)

Taras Hryb passed away on Thursday, November 25, 2021, near Salmon Arm, BC. It was only ten days after the death of his good friend and wrestling teammate at UBC, George Richey.

Gifted a Ukrainian-resonant name by his parents, Taras was brought up, first in Sooke then in the Victoria suburb of Oak Bay. When he turned fourteen, the initially rotund teenager joined the YMCA wrestling program under the remarkable tutelage of Coach Ed Ashmore.*

Taras Hryb would begin his notable wrestling career by winning two BC high school titles at 165 lbs in 1968 and 1969. The latter year was significant as he would participate in the first BC – Japan wrestling cultural exchange program in July. He was the only BC wrestler on the three-week tour not to lose a match. This was followed by his groundbreaking third-place showing at the inaugural World Junior Championships in Boulder, Colorado, in August. Taras thus became the first Canadian to finish top three at a world wrestling championship in the post-World War II era. Other wrestlers followed a few years later, but Taras broke the ice and paved the way by example.

He was soon showered with praise, was voted both 1969 BC High School Athlete-of-the-Year, then was also selected Greater Victoria Male Athlete-of-the-Year.

Taras Hryb was subsequently recruited to UBC by future BC Sports Hall of Fame coach, Paul Nemeth. Exceptionally strong, lightning-quick, and having developed a sophisticated single-leg attack, Taras would win three Canadian University (CIAU) titles at 180 lbs in 1970, 1971, and 1973.** He would also win four successive Canadian Senior titles in 1971, 1972, 1973, and 1974, all at 82 kg.

Due to his obvious abilities and on-mat success, international competitions quickly followed. At only nineteen years of age, in 1971, he traveled to Cali, Columbia, and was Pan-American Games bronze medallist. A year later, at only twenty years of age, Taras Hryb represented Canada at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, West Germany. He followed this up with a second bronze medal in 1974 at the Commonwealth Games in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Due to recurring knee injuries, Taras was forced to retire from high-level competition by the mid-1970s. He then joined the Vancouver Police Department in 1976, enjoying a 27-year career in the force and rising to the position of Sergeant. He retired in 2003. In the interim he ventured onto the mat for one more stint in the sports limelight, winning a gold medal in wrestling in the 206 lbs weight class at the 1985 World Police and Fire Games.

His former teammates were effusive in their praise for the deceased. Dave Higashi, the longtime BC-based referee, had this to say: “Taras was the top wrestler while I was on the UBC team. He was the team captain and led the team with the most Ws. He had the ‘great’ single-leg attack which won so many matches for him… I will miss the champ.” Craig Delahunt, also a CIAU champion, described his former training partner this way: “Taras was smart, a biology major. He was also an outstanding on-mat leader as he could bring everyone together. He was able to do that because he was someone everyone could get along with.” The retired high school administrator, Ray Munsie, first met Taras while getting involved with some on-mat coaching in the Shuswap. He remembered with fondness that the former Thunderbird twice donated $500 to the wrestling program at Salmon Arm Secondary, and even came out to do a technique session with the students: “Taras was a true gentleman.”

Taras Hryb was inducted into the Canadian Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1988.

He was inducted into the Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame in 2002.

He was also Guest-of-Honour at the BC High School Championships in 2017 in Salmon Arm. He was delighted to know that he had not been forgotten by the wrestling fraternity, and was tickled pink by the succession of coaches who came over to shake his hand and exchange a few words.

Our deepest and sincerest condolences to the family.

*It should be noted that the influential Ashmore would be a key coach in also helping to produce future World placers Rolf Schetterer, George Richey, and Clark Davis.

**It is also interesting to note that Taras would attend SFU for one semester in the Fall of 1972. He continued his on-mat training up on the Hill with new training partners, before quickly returning to UBC. SFU would nevertheless claim him as a former student-Olympian. More logically, so does UBC.

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