Jan 10, 2012

Beloved St. Mark's Wrestling Coach to Retire

Coach Rick Ortega has led the St. Mark's wrestling program for the past 30 years and will retire at the end of this season. He has shaped hundreds of boys into championship athletes and led the team to dozens of state championships.

When my son started wrestling for St. Mark's, I must admit that I didn't like Coach Ortega much. He can come across as hard and gruff when he yells at his athletes. But many young men - and their mother's - have learned how he does things for a reason and witnessed his commitment to and compassion for the boys he educates. Not only does this coach mold and inspire his athletes, he teaches them many life lessons about sportsmanship, commitment and tenacity.

Posted in the wrestling room is his promise: Those Who Stay Will Be Champions. He doesn't promise that it will be easy, but if they stick with it he will make them champions. And he has, year after year.
As a freshman, my son stepped on a wrestling mat for the first time with no skills. Last year he competed in the Prep National Championships. This year he is a team captain. One of my favorite sayings from Coach Ortega is his reply to a boy who told the coach he wanted to sleep in instead of practice during the holidays. The coach's reply: "You can sleep when your dead."

Coach Ortega will be missed, not just by his team or St. Marks, but by the entire wrestling community. His dedication to the sport earned him a place in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame several years ago.[where: 75230]

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