Class of 2014
Mike Powell, who first walked into the Oak Park River Forest High School Wrestling Room at the age of 5, graduated from Little Huskies Youth Wrestling to become a high school state champion. He won the AA 171-pound IHSA State Wrestling title in1994 and went on to become a 167-pound NCAA All-American at Indiana University.
In 1999, Mike returned to Oak Park River Forest to teach and coach – and he has excelled at both. In 2010, he received an Outstanding Educator Award from the Northwestern Chapter of Phi Delta Kappa, one of the nation’s largest education associations.
Mike’s impressive list of coaching accomplishments includes conference, state and national championships. In just nine years, his teams have amassed a dual record of 155 wins and 39 losses. Along with coaching teams to five National Dual Championships, he has also coached scores of national champions and place winners. In 2009 USA Wrestling named Mike its Cadet Development Coach of the Year.
In March of 2009, just after coaching his team to the IHSA AAA State Dual Team Championship and just before being honored as the AAA Coach of the Year, Mike was stricken with polymyositis, a rare autoimmune disease that results in the destruction of muscle cells, an often crippling or fatal condition.
He has faced his physical challenge with courage and ferocity. His battle with this disease and his commitment to education and coaching was featured in Sports Illustrated and was chronicled in documentaries on NBC and ESPN.
It is Mike’s passion to continue to pass on life’s lessons to the young people he meets and mentors. He believes that maximizing one’s potential as a high school student/athlete is difficult, so having a plan on how to do it is essential. He stresses integrity, discipline, hard work, respect, kindness and contributions to family, community and the larger world. A father figure to many, including 2012 Olympian Ellis Coleman, Mike assists his students with their life plans even into adulthood.
Mike has also succeeded in creating a Huskies Wrestling Family of parents, siblings, alumni and fans who support the wrestlers by fundraising and cheering at local and state tournaments. They raised almost $40,000 to allow Ellis Coleman’s family to attend his quest for a gold medal in London.
Mike’s 2014 edition of the Huskie’s reached a pinnacle never achieved before and has been tabbed as arguably the best team ever in Illinois history. The team finished the season ranked as the number two team in the United States. This is an achievement no other Illinois team had ever garnered. In addition the team won the Illinois Dual Team State Championship and at the Illinois Individual State Championship qualified an unprecedented 10 wrestlers with 5 of them earning All-State Honors and 4 of those same wrestlers winning individual state championships.
Following his 2014 team’s success Mike decided to step away from his head coach role and take an assistants position with the Huskies. This will allow him to concentrate on his strengths as a technical and motivational coach working within the confines of the Huskie’s wrestling room.
Despite his health challenges, Mike continues to serve as a role model for hundreds of athletes, past and present, who look to him for advice, inspiration and help.