AUBURN – After coaching at one spot for nearly 30 years, Auburn’s Mark Oliver will soon be a Hall of Famer.
Coach Oliver, who has coached wrestling and taught social sciences at Auburn High School since the late 1980’s, got word last week that he will soon join the list of greats as a member of the Nebraska Scholastic Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
“I was surprised. But it’s a good feeling to be honored by your peers,” says Oliver.
Oliver, who still coaches the Bulldogs, led Auburn to a 2nd place team finish at state in 2009, and two third place finishes. He has also seen five individual state champions, including his own son Matt, over the last three decades.
As much as he takes pride in those achievements, his favorite moments have been when wrestlers have over-achieved.
“Kids that make it to state, kids that win state medals, that they really, on paper, should never have a chance to even be there for one and all of a sudden they’re winning matches and next thing you know they’re on the medal platform,” says Oliver.
The Kearney State grad is quick to point out all the coaches and mentors that have helped along the way. He says his high school coaches Mike Mahar and Craig Helwegge helped wave the way for him in high school in Shelton, Nebraska. Later, Jack Ramey taught him to be tough at Kearney. He will soon join all those coaches in the Hall of Fame.
“I’ve been surrounded by good people all my life, great mentors, I give them a lot of thanks for this,” says Oliver.
He says he also got help from one unexpected mentor. Hall of Famer Larry Munn was able to have plenty of success at Falls City High, and regularly beat Auburn for many years. Still, Oliver says Munn was quick to give him tips.
“But he didn’t care. he took me under his wing. He showed me his cross-fade cradle series and told me a lot of things mentally about how to work with kids and that guy was fantastic,” says Oliver.
Oliver says he’s had the good fortune to work with longtime assistant Mike Vinson, and other assistants along the way. He hopes that when his staff take over their own programs, they make it known to their athletes how wonderful it is to be a wrestler.
“How to inspire kids, how to get the most out of kids, to make them feel good,” says Oliver.
Oliver says that he currently has a strong batch of young wrestlers at Auburn and although he could retire next year, he will likely stick around to see them develop.