Class of 2013
Mark Gardner began wrestling in the late 1970s in Springfield Illinois. Gardner attended Springfield Southeast HS with his brothers Greg and Brad, posting a 42-2 record his senior year under the tutelage of his father Hall of Fame Coach Jack Gardner. Gardner, along with his brothers and cousin Andy, continued their wrestling careers at Illinois State University under Hall of Fame coach George Girardi, earning three varsity letters. Gardner posted a 48-22 career mark for the Redbirds.
After graduating from ISU in 1990 with an education degree, Gardner began his coaching career with Curt Christianson at University High School in Normal. His second year there, the Pioneers finished second in the IHSA State Dual Team tournament and crowned one state champion.
In 1992, Gardner accepted the head coaching position at Bloomington High School, a position he has held for the past 21 years. That same year, he started the Junior Raiders IKWF Wrestling Club, which he runs to this day.
Over the past 21 years, the Raiders have won 19 Big 12 conference team championships, 13 regionals, 2 sectionals and posted a dual meet mark of 342-99. The 2012 Bloomington team captured third place in the IHSA State Dual Meet Tournament.
Under Coach Gardner, Bloomington wrestlers have won 95 individual Big 12 conference titles, 83 regional titles, 26 sectional titles and one state title. Bloomington has sent 71 wrestlers to the State Tournament, placing sixteen times. Seven of his Bloomington wrestlers have had the honor of participating in ‘The Grand March’ in Champaign as state finalists.
Gardner has been a member of the Illinois Freestyle and Greco team as both a competitor and coach, spending part of nine summers taking Illinois wrestlers to the National Tournament in Fargo. In 1993, Gardner started the Iguana Greco Club at Bloomington High School and has had the pleasure of seeing his own Bloomington wrestlers earn high school All-American status nine times, including eight Greco All-Americans and four Jr. National Greco Champions.
Many of Gardner’s wrestlers have gone on to succeed at colleges such as Missouri, Northwestern, Iowa State, Northern Iowa, Northern Illinois and other various collegiate levels. Recent Bloomington wrestlers have captured numerous freestyle and Greco medals at the University level and three times won the Jr. World Team Trials to represent the USA at the World Championships. Gardner’s wrestlers have gone on to coach at all levels including the IKWF, IHSA and the NCAA. Adam Richards, a former wrestler for Gardner, has for the past 6 years, been a co-head coach with him at Bloomington HS.
Gardner has been named Central Illinois coach-of-the year 10 times and three times has been nominated ‘Coach of the Year’ in Illinois by the IWCOA.
Gardner currently resides in Bloomington with his wife Stacie and three children, Ryan, Paige and Leah. He is continues to teach and coach the Bloomington High School team, while running the Little Raiders IKWF Club and the Iguana Greco Club.