Former Livingston, Boise State wrestling legend Larry Quisel passes away

BOISE, Idaho — Two-time Montana high school state champion and former Boise State all-American Larry Quisel passed away over the weekend during a hunting trip, according to his former Park High School coach Craig Cervantes.

“He was just a solid human being. He married his high school sweetheart (Heather West Quisel) from Park High and they had three kids. Like I said, it’s just a crushing blow. He was a hometown hero for Park High in Livingston. It’s just really hard to comprehend,” Cervantes said.

Quisel became a standout wrestler at Park High School in Livingston, a four-time state placer and two-time state champion. As a freshman in 1992, Quisel earned runner-up honors at 119 pounds, leading the Rangers to a fifth-place finish in the Class A team standings. The following season he battled back from an early-round loss to secure a third-place finish at 130 pounds. In 1994 and 1995 Quisel was the heavy favorite to win state at 135 pounds, defeating Laurel’s A.J. Ellison 8-2 and Sidney’s Shay Wyman 8-7, respectively.

“Larry was a quiet leader,” said Cervantes. “He would lead by example on the mats. He wouldn’t say a lot, but whatever he said the kids followed. I think it was the same when he was at Boise State. The kid lifted religiously every morning in high school, or maybe after school, it was like clockwork. I knew he had the mental toughness, the intelligence and especially the work ethic to compete at the Division I level. I just thought, ‘This kid has it all.'”

Cervantes convinced Quisel to attend Boise State, where he would become one of the greatest athletes in program history.

Quisel won Pac-10 championships in 1999 and 2000, both at 157 pounds, and went on to enjoy all-American honors both years. After losing a highly-controversial first-round match at the NCAA Championships in 1999, Quisel made NCAA history, winning eight consecutive matches on his way to a third-place finish.

“He was a terror. He would smell blood. If it was close, you were going down, he was going to pin you,” said Cervantes. “If it was a close match, he was going for the throat, the jugular, and he was going to pin you. I believe he had five or six pins in those eight matches coming back and he got the Gorrarian Award (for the most pins in the least amount of time). It didn’t really surprise me. He was a pinner in high school and if you got close, he was going to pin you. He was just a really tough-minded guy going for the pin.”

“The next year, the other feat, he ended up getting second, he lost to Brett Matter from the University of Pennsylvania in the finals in 2000 in St. Louis, but the big highlight for him was beating TJ Williams from the heralded University of Iowa program in the semifinals,” continued Cervantes. “He beat him, I want to say 3-1 in overtime. TJ Williams wrestled for the Iowa Hawkeyes for three years and his only loss for the prestigious Iowa Hawkeyes was to Larry Quisel, and he has the best winning percentage at the University of Iowa. I want to say his record was (98-1). You’re talking Iowa. That’s something else Montana can be proud of. TJ Williams’ only loss is to a homegrown Montana boy, Larry Quisel of Livingston and Boise State. I always bragged about that a little bit.”

Cervantes’ voice cracked at times when discussing Quisel, his former athlete and eventual friend. He said the two kept in touch over the years, with Cervantes proud to see Quisel become a family man — a loving father and husband — while maintaining his close friendships.

“RIP champ. You will be sorely missed,” Cervantes posted on social media on Monday.

The longtime coach and mentor said while Quisel will be remembered for his legacy on the wrestling mats — the high school all-state and state champion accolades, the all-American finishes and history at the NCAAs — it’s his legacy off the mat that his closest friends and family will remember.

“His integrity, sportsmanship, he was just a solid guy, really unassuming and very humble. He did all of his actions, I’m saying that as a human being, too, but on the wrestling mat he was just a ferocious competitor, just a great competitor. But off the mat he was soft-spoken, humble,” Cervantes said. “He would never talk about himself, just really soft-spoken and a quiet leader. He was that way in life, too. I know he was a great father, husband, friend and son. He was truly an all-American guy off the mat. I guess that’s what it boils down to. He was your typical, epitome of an all-American off the mat. He was a great student, an engineering major at Boise State. It’s a big loss. He was one of the best.”

Richie Melby

Richie Melby

A Hi-line native, Richie Melby enjoys telling the stories of Montana athletes, coaches and teams. Richie got his start in TV at KTVQ in Billings and worked as the Sports Director at KRTV. After a couple of years in Tucson, Ariz., Richie returned to his home state as the Sports Director at KTVH.
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