PEORIA — When Rich Clopper took over as head coach of the Richwoods swimming and diving team in 1969, he began a coaching career that has left ripples of success all the way to today's program at the school.
The former Knights coach died last Wednesday at the age of 83.
During a 19-year career with the Knights, Clopper posted a 104-1 dual meet record with the boys in nine years, winning conference every season.
He coached Richwoods to a fourth-place finish at the state meet in 1971 and a second to Hinsdale Central the following year.
Clopper's swimmers earned five boys state titles. Gib Leach won the 100 breaststroke in 1970 and in 1972; the 200 medley relay team of Leach, Jim Bucher, John Houser and Cliff Myers won gold in 1972; and Bucher won both the 200 individual medley and 100 freestyle events in 1974.
Clopper then coached the Richwoods girls team, starting in 1977, and went 42-1 in conference dual meets. The Knights won eight conference meets under Clopper, and the 1982 Knights finished 10th at the girls state meet.
"He started as the head coach my sophomore year in high school, so I swam for him here at RHS," current Richwoods swimming coach Lynn Thompson said. "He was also very influential as I coached — stopping by practices and meets to show support of me and the RHS swim program."
A former Richwoods swim coach, Corky King, said he still kept in touch with Clopper, who preceded him as head swim coach and later was an assistant for him.
"He was a great guy, and I owe him tons for all the things he did for me," said King, who went on to coach the highly successful Hinsdale Central team after leaving Richwoods. "I swam for the guy in high school, and then we ended up sharing an office together, teaching P.E. and coaching swimming."
Cremation rites and a celebration of life for Clopper will be scheduled at a later date.