Jerry Cavaness is honored as special guest and wrestler at a wrestling tournament in Lahore, Pakistan.
An Amazing Education
by Anna Harris
After 38 years of teaching and coaching at home and abroad, Gerald (Jerry) Cavaness is retiring, at least officially. Eighteen of those years were spent teaching health and science in Oroville, where Cavaness (BA, Biological Sciences, ’71; MA, Physical Education, ’78; Credentials, ’72 and ’85) developed and directed the largest U.S. youth wrestling program.
The Northern California Youth Wrestling Association began in 1973 as Cavaness’s master’s thesis project. “It was an amazing experience working with students, wrestlers, and parents,” he says.
While in Oroville, Cavaness also started citywide cross country championships for elementary and junior high students and was on the board of the Oroville Youth Foundation.
After his time in Oroville, Cavaness and wife Delena (BA, Social Science, ’91; Credential, ’92) taught school in Pakistan, Ecuador, and Qatar for nine years before returning to Chico in 2006. As athletic director and dean of students in Pakistan, Cavaness organized and directed the South Asian Cricket Championships for Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and Nepal. His team won the title in March 2005. Under his direction, the Lahore American School soccer team in Pakistan won the South Asian Interscholastic Sports championships.
While teaching in Pakistan, Cavaness and his environmental science class developed a snake festival. “Many snakes in the area are killed when seen, as the people think they are poisonous,” he says. He and his class worked to combat this misconception by researching reptiles for an information pamphlet presented to the elementary classes at the school.
Cavaness also directed a 14-school, intercity Environmental Summit in Pakistan and wrote Kushti: Wrestling in South Asia and a track-coaching manual for rural school coaches in Lahore. “I’ve been very blessed to have traveled and lived in other cultures,” says Cavaness. “What an amazing education.”
Cavaness has also coached the first North Section wrestler to place twice in the CIF State Wrestling Championships and started MEChA, cross country, and soccer programs at Pierce High School in Arbuckle. And he raised five children and spent 15 years as a scoutmaster.
Cavaness’s retirement plans don’t include much slowing down—he continues to wrestle competitively at tournaments throughout Northern California when not assisting with Pleasant Valley High’s wrestling program. Whatever free time he has left is spent tutoring students and gardening.