Former Purdue wrestler eye big things as Trinity’s coach

December 6, 2012
Trinity High School’s new wrestling coach, Mark Powell, gives a few pointers to wrestlers Jeff Miller and Robert West during practice. - Katie Roupe / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

One week before the start of the high school wrestling season, Mark Powell was asked to participate in a school function that might closely relate to his first year as Trinity’s head coach.

Donkey basketball.

Powell strapped a crash helmet on his head, mounted the hairy beast then hung on for dear life while trying to guide the animal around the gymnasium. No word on whether the donkey outscored Powell.

This wrestling season will be a lot like that game. Powell and the Hillers will have to be prepared for a rough and grueling season that will cause wear and tear on the body and tax the willpower of the mind. Powell will be in an unusual position, that of head coach of a high school team after a college career. Trying to control the events of a tournament, dual meet or bout will be much like directing the donkey to the right position in the gymnasium: It will take a lot of motivation and patience.

“When you wrestled here, you take extra pride in coming back,” said Powell. “Coming from Trinity, I know there is a deep tradition here. I’ve taken pride in that since I was 5.”

The 27-year-old Powell was hired in August to replace Mike Marino, who resigned in May. Before heading on to a college career at Purdue University, Powell finished a scholastic career in 2002 in which he left Trinity as the second-winningest wrestler in the program’s history with 134 wins, seven behind Andy Migyanko. He was a three-time state qualifier, finishing seventh as a senior at 140 pounds in Class AAA and won a gold medal in the Powerade Christmas Tournament.

Powell is trying to find a way to motivate a Hillers team that lost only two starters from last year: Blake Iddings, who graduated; and Derek Hull, whose family moved into the Chartiers-Houston School District.

Powell got some scholastic coaching experience last year as an assistant coach at West Greene.

“I guess the talk around the WPIAL was that I did a good job at West Greene,” he said. “This sport is different from most sports. You spend more time with these kids than you do with your family.”

The Hillers open the season Friday in the two-day North Coast Classic at Independence (Ohio) High School, then take on rival McGuffey Wednesday in a Section 4-A match in Claysville. The Highlanders also have a different coach this season, but a familiar face is back as Mark Caffrey makes his third go-round.

“We’ve got a good group here,” said Powell. “Everyone has progressed.”

It’s a senior-laden team, which should help Powell, and is led by three 20-match winners from last year: Jeff Miller (138, 23-15), Don McWreath (195, 26-12) and Evan Seaman (220, 22-10). Sophomore Robert West returns from a 23-6 season at 170 pounds. How quickly the younger wrestlers develop will determine how successful Trinity will be in a rugged section that includes defending state team champion Canon-McMillan.

“No one is beating Canon-Mac,” Powell said. “They are the top dog, and they earned it. But I feel we are good enough to finish second in the section.”

Powell has made conditioning a priority with the wrestlers. A steep hill next to the high school has provided a test of will, stamina and the ability to keep lunch down for these Hillers. It’s also made them tougher.

“When I was at Purdue, I was in the Boliermakers Elite Wrestling Club, and I worked with young kids,” said Powell. “Camp was two- to three-weeks long. I know I have to have patience with these kids, but I seem to work well with them.”

It should be an interesting ride.

On The Web For preseason team rankings, and a preview of each area team, go to Roupe / Observer-Reporter

Trinity High School’s new wrestling coach Mark Powell gives a few pointers to wrestlers Jeff Miller and Robert West during practice.

Joe Tuscano has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1980. He has covered all sports for the newspaper, including the Steelers, Pirates, Pitt football, local college football and wrestling. He has worked for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Jeannette News-Dispatch and North Hills Record. He graduated from Duquesne University in 1980.

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