The 2022 college wrestling national championships are over … but the great...
Wrestling room will be named after former UNO coach Mike Denney
By Mike Finn
The wrestling program at the University of Nebraska at Omaha may be dead but the legacy of the Mavericks and their legendary coach Mike Denney will live on.
That is the goal of Zach Dominguez, who will officially name the wrestling room of the Maverick Wrestling Club in the Omaha suburb of Papillion, Neb., on Sept. 22, after the long-time UNO coach who lost his program when the NCAA Division II school opted to drop wrestling after the 2011 season.
“(Naming the room) is important to me because Mike Denney was not only a wrestling coach but a mentor to a lot of kids who came through the college level,” said Dominquez, who spent six years as an assistant coach for Denney. The Maverick head man spent 32 years at UNO, where his Mavericks compiled a 314-111-5 all-time dual meet record and won seven NCAA Division II team championships between 1991 and 2011.
“He was a teacher, a wrestling coach and he was a friend. I would say half the city of Omaha would know who Mike Denney is.
“The fact that he had to leave because of certain wrong-doings, I feel it is important that he does have a legacy here and that it stays here because he has done so much for the city. He would send his (wrestlers) out and visit hospitals during Christmas. They would be part of the community. He made sure we were always a part of Omaha to make sure everyone knew who we were and not just him.
“As far as national championships, he has more than (legendary Nebraska Husker football coach) Tom Osborne. There have not been too many wrestling rooms that have been named after coaches.”
Denney, who helped create a program at the University of Maryville after his forced departure from UNO, will be in Omaha on Sept. 22, when the room will be officially named after him at 9 a.m. and in conjunction with a golf outing fundraiser for the club which is open to both high school and college wrestlers.
“(Coach Denney) is going to bring his team up here and put them through a workout,” Dominguez said. “I’ve invited some of our old boosters to come to the room. I want everyone to enjoy their time in this room.”
Dominquez believes a void for wrestling was created when UNO dropped the Maverick program.
“(Wrestling in the Omaha area) is a state of want,” said Dominguez, who heads up a group of coaches, including his brothers and former UNO All-Americans Eli and Esai Dominguez. “People will ask what national champions does UNO own. It doesn’t now. Iowa Western recently opened a JUCO program and now has one of the best recruiting classes because of the kids from the Omaha area.”
One of the bigger problems when college drop wrestling is that former wrestlers no longer have any place to go to remind them of their past. Dominquez hopes to change that with the Maverick Wrestling Club.
“We will have some things in here, memorabilia-wise, including of coach Denney and his national championships,” said Dominquez, who added that it is hard to refer to UNO because of the university’s decision under athletics director Trev Alberts, who believed wrestling prevented the school from becoming a Division I program.
Dominquez would also like fans not to give up on the idea of UNO reinstating wrestling.
“I want them to know that we are strong and can make it happen again,” he said. “From coach Denney, I learned that wrestling is a team sport.
“You are only as strong as every coach/wrestler you have on your team. I want to put wrestling up there where it needs to be. It is one of those sports that is never going to go away.”