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(Originally published in W.I.N., March 31, 1998)
By J.R. Ogden & Mike Chapman
Mark Ironside has made things easy for the Iowa coaching staff.
“If you had 10 of him, you wouldn’t have to worry about even coaching,” said Iowa coach Jim Zalesky earlier this season. “I’ve be out fishing right now.”
Ironside not only is a self-driven, hard-working athlete. He settles for nothing less than total domination. What coach wouldn’t want that?
“He’s driven to destroy and to dominate his opponents,” Iowa assistant Tom Brands said. “He lives when he wins and dies when he loses. To me, that’s the definition of wrestling.”
It’s not only the Iowa coaches who think Ironside is special. And that, for the most part, is why the Hawkeye senior, a two-time NCAA champion who won his final 67 collegiate bouts, is the winner of the 1998 Dan Hodge Trophy as the nation’s outstanding wrestler.
“They don’t grow them like that very often,” said Iowa State coach Bobby Douglas. “You can’t just find somebody to beat a guy like that. You have to recruit to beat a guy like that or you want until he graduates. which is what he did.”
Ironside decided long ago that close matches just would not cut it. Close matches meant mistakes could affect the outcome; that upsets were possible. That’s not the way he wanted it.
“I like feeling strong. I like to look strong and I like to feel like I’m in power and I’m in control,” he said. I don’t want to squeak out wins by one or two points and people think that was luck or that could have gone either way.
“I want to win and I like to win big. I like to be dominating.”
Ironside definitely was that throughout his Iowa career, especially the past two seasons when he didn’t lost a match en route to a pair of 134-pound NCAA championships. Included in his final 67 wins were 52 “bonus” victories: 27 pins, 17 major decisions and eight match terminations.
In a career that included 127 wins and just 10 losses — including a 100-2 record the final three seasons at Iowa — Ironside collected 84 bonus wins, including 38 by pin and 34 majors.
“Ironside, he’s kind of one in a million,” Brands said.
Ironside said a series of close losses during his first trip to the NCAA championships changes his style.
“That’s when I realized I really had to start picking it up, widening the gap, being dominant,” he said.
As for the Hodge award, Ironside said it’s special because it’s for “the whole year long. It’s not just one or two tournaments.
Ironside was especially proud of his senior season, a 35-0 campaign that included a career high 14 pins.
“I definitely wish I could have done more, though,” he said. “You gotta be happy with one aspect. But unless I went out and pinned every opponent, I wouldn’t be happy.”
Ironside will take a break from competition this summer — “I’m not going to be sitting on my butt, by no means,” he said. — then will concentrate on the 1999 world championships and 2000 Olympics.
“It’s a whole new sport for me, almost,” Ironside said of freestyle. “But I’m excited to make the transition.”
The Hodge Trophy is in it’s fourth year and has created a stir in the wrestling world. Each trophy has been presented to the winning athlete at halftime of a football game in the fall and is also reported over the Associated Press wires.
The Trophy is named after Dan Hodge, a legendary three-time NCAA champion at the University of Oklahoma. Known for his pinning prowess, Hodge never lost during his collegiate career and also was never taken down. He is the only wrestler to ever appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated (April 1, 1957) and also was national Golden Gloves heavyweight boxing champion.
The following are Mark Ironside’s career statistics at Iowa:
|Season||School||Year of Eligibilty||Bouts||W||L||T||Falls||W Pct.||All-American||Weight|