Mann stepping down
MHS wrestling coach, alum resigns after nine seasons
Mike Mann still remembers the day when he sat alongside then-Marshalltown High School wrestling coach Phil Henning on the bleachers at the Roundhouse and, in his own slightly snarky way, wondered how some of the other wrestlers struggled with even the basics.
Thirty years later, Mann said, he finally understands.
On Monday, Mann’s letter of resignation was acknowledged at the Marshalltown Community School District’s board meeting, putting to an end Mann’s 23-year coaching career that included the last nine as the head varsity wrestling coach.
There was no eye-opening moment, sign or signal along the way this winter that told him it was time. He just knew.
“I just turned 61 years old, I’m ready to do something else,” he said. “Not that I’m going to do anything, but just a change in my life. It just came to a point where I asked myself ‘do I want to keep doing this?’ I’m not doing anything special, I’m just ready to not do it anymore. Pretty simple.”
Mann never envisioned himself as a high school wrestling coach during his own career on the mat. He was a state champion for the Bobcats in 1978 and he went on to be a four-time All-American at Iowa State University, finishing seventh, fourth, second and second in respective seasons at the NCAA national championships. Mann won 113 matches as a Cyclone and was the Big 8 Conference champion in 1983.
Somewhere along the lines he got roped into volunteering as an assistant coach for Henning after helping with camps and clinics, but it was never a part of his master plan.
“I noticed after coaching kids in freestyle and camps, I found myself not being very patient,” he said. “Over the years I’ve realized that some of us are gifted with the talent. It came to me naturally, and it’s always been frustrating to me that kids can’t feel certain things that are unique to the sport of wrestling.”
That’s where he mentioned the day he wondered out loud to his old head coach why it was so hard for some kids to get it. After 23 seasons as an assistant and head wrestling coach, Mann has a much better sense of perspective.
“I could almost point to the spot on the bleachers where I said to coach Henning ‘I can’t believe they don’t know how to do this. What are they doing?’ And now after 30 years I get it.”
In his nine seasons, Mann coached 16 wrestlers who qualified for state — four of them twice — eight state placewinners and one state champion. Pedro Gomez, in his senior season of 2012-13, won the Class 3A heavyweight title in Mann’s first go-round at the helm of the Bobcat wrestling program.
“I feel fortunate to coach a sport like wrestling because there’s coaches who coach other sports who will maybe never get past the first round of the playoffs or get to the state tournament,” he said. “Wrestling is a unique sport where you qualify one or five individuals every year and you know you’re going down [to Des Moines] every year and hopefully you’ll bring back some medals. It’s just been a real treat to know that’s going to happen and look forward to that goal of ‘who’s next?’ It’s always rewarding.”
Speaking of rewarding, Mann’s first grandson was born one week after Gomez got Marshalltown to the top of the podium, across the street from Wells Fargo Arena at the Iowa Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines. His daughter Leah and Kyle Miller, Mann’s assistant coach, named their first-born Gadson — after Mike’s wrestling coaches at Iowa State, Willie and Charles Gadson.
Mann got the opportunity to coach three of his nephews at the state tournament — Derek (2014), Devan (2016) and Decker (2018) Mann. In 2017, Mann was inducted into the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Wrestling is a part of Mann’s family, but now it won’t play as prominant of a role.
“I’m ready to step away,” he said. “It’s been good, but I’m ready to give somebody else a shot, get some young blood in there hopefully and keep going with what we’ve done with Bobcat wrestling. It’s been a good run but I know the fire in the belly that it takes and I’m ready to let somebody else keep the fire burning.
“I want the program to continue to have success, and power to the next guy and I hope they do better than I did. As a competitor you always think you can do better, whatever better means to you.”