Markwell parlays hard work, dedication into milestone win
FITHIAN – Like many successful coaches, Dave Markwell was a multisport high school standout who went on to play in college.
Unlike many successful coaches, Markwell has thrived in a sport in which he never participated.
His athletic background was in football, basketball and baseball, but on Wednesday, Markwell joined an elite club when his Oakwood wrestling team defeated Urbana in a dual meet.
According to the IHSA, Markwell is the 42nd coach in state history with 300 dual-meet wins. Markwell's 24-year career record is 300-158-8.
When Markwell took over for Gregg Jarman at St. Joseph-Ogden in 1984, he made certain Superintendent Ralph Ambler was aware of his lack of experience.
"I told him I'd never been around wrestling," Markwell said. "He said that was OK. The guy before me hadn't been either."
His first year wasn't traumatic, he said, because "I had 10 returning seniors who knew what they were doing."
What Markwell has found in wrestling is a strong support system from some of the very people he tries to beat: opposing coaches.
"It's not like basketball where someone does this and this and won't show anyone else," Markwell said. "In wrestling, if you see something, coaches and kids will show you."
Most influential were some of the area's most prominent coaches of the 1980s: Unity's Joe Summerville and Mahomet-Seymour's Marty Williams and Jim Risley as well as Oakwood's Marty McFarland.
"I owe a lot to the older guys who were willing to take their time and teach me," Markwell said. "I was fortunate to be able to talk with people and have them show me stuff. I took notes and watched videos.
"It was learn as you go."
The record will show how well he has done. During his four years at SJ-O, Markwell coached the Spartans' first state qualifier (John Hastings) as well as the school's first state placer (Mark Huls).
Since relocating to Oakwood, where he replaced Mike Nolan, the Comets' program has flourished. The Comets have won their only four regional titles during his tenure, and this will mark the 14th winning season in the past 15 years.
Oakwood is 14-2.
"I can show kids things that will benefit them, things they can add to their repertoire to make them more competitive," Markwell said, "but I'm still learning. You never get too old to learn."
Now 56 and in his 35th year as an educator, the Cumberland High School graduate has submitted his resignation as a driver's education teacher at the end of the 2008-09 school year.
"I've told them if they can't find a wrestling coach, I would like to continue to coach," Markwell said.
It's hard for him to believe he is near the end of his coaching days.
"I can't believe it has gone so fast," Markwell said. "I've had great kids come through the program. The kids keep you young and keep you energetic."
Before his hiring at SJ-O, Markwell coached the 1982-83 Beecher City team to an 18-6 record and a runner-up finish in the Class 1A state baseball tournament. At Oakwood, he has helped baseball coach Bob Sermak the past 17 years.
He would not have predicted, however, that coaching wrestling would become his passion.
"I figured I'd be there a while and eventually do something different," Markwell said, "but I fell in love with the sport. What I like is the team concept, yet it's individual, too.
"However hard you work at it is the success you'll have at it. I've had kids who have really worked hard."
So has the coach.