By Bob mcPhee
LISBON FALLS-Soon after Mark Stevens began coaching wrestling at
he was introduced to one fact of life that was never taken for granted and
carried on through out a successful career. Lisbon High School
Stevens has achieved the ultimate recognition by being selected as the 2014 National Coach of the Year by Wrestling USA Magazine. Additionally, he will be inducted in to the Maine Amateur Wrestling Hall of Fame, August 2 at the
School in . Bath
In 1998, a young inexperienced team was intimidated prior to a dual meet against an experienced
team who indeed
schooled the Greyhounds. Mountain
''We lost the match that night but as we were leaving, I recall what (hall of Fame) Coach (Jerry) Perkins said to me,'' Stevens said, Perkins said "Mark, your wrestlers have good hand shakes". ''At first, I wondered if I should have been offended, by his comment, but after a year or two, I realized what he meant.''
Later, then MV assistant Gary Dolloff informed Stevens what message had been conveyed because Lisbon Wrestlers would be beating teams on mats, in just a matter of time. Those words came true faster than anyone from Lisbon imagined, beginning in December of 2000, when a team of " no names" placed a close second at the McDonalds Tourney just shy of Class A state champion Noble.
''I recall that I wasn't too aware of how to keep team scores that year,''Stevens said, shocked when they announced Lisbon as runner ups, ''I was in disbelief, I was overwhelmed with emotion and couldn't bring myself to go down to get the trophy.''
It was the start of historic run,
has won seven team state titles (2001-2002-2003-2006-2008-2009-2010) and three
state runner ups, while having won over 250 dual meets. The smaller Greyhounds
competed in some of the most competitive
tournaments in Lisbon Maine, such as the Spartan,
Noble, Atlantic, Kennebunk Duals (8-time team
Champions), Several Mid State league and Regional Championships.
54 individual championships; five Outstanding wrestlers, dozens of 2X
state champions, 6 - 3X state champions and one 4 X
state champion. The program have so many trophies/plaques and
awards, that Lisbon doesn't have
enough room in the trophy case. Lisbon
''What Lisbon Wrestlers have accomplished in the past 17 years has been truly amazing,'' Stevens said, who had won a state championship for
, in 1982. ''The
trophies are nice but nothing compared to the unforgettable memories and
experiences we shared. Those wrestlers, parents and coaches who have
been apart of this journey have some great stories to tell.'' Lisbon
''It was always about building "champion kids" not just champion wrestlers,'' Stevens said. ''Wrestling teaches kids more about themselves than most teams sports. The corner stones of our sports are respect, character and discipline, those kids who learned the sport in Lisbon, took home the cornerstones that would prepare them for life.''
Stevens credits his wife Gretchen and family for helping to keep life in perspective through out this incredible journey. When Amanda, McKayla and Zach (who recently won a third state crown) were young, all they knew was daddy was gone wrestling. When Stevens would get home they would greet him at the door asking to see the trophies. That continued for years and Stevens realized that winning was now an expectation. After having finished fifth in a tough tournament out of state, oldest daughter Amanda said, ''daddy your team isn't good anymore?
''I realized that there was a sort of curse with the success we had,''Stevens said. ''meaning it was more news when we lost than when we won. That took some time getting used to, but figured it was how our wrestling world was.''
Wrestling was a way of life, it became Stevens identity and coaching other families kids become champions was a great honor. But watching Zach win his third state title this year was a moment the elder Stevens will cherish for a lifetime.
''Not only that he won,'' Stevens said. ''But that he and so many others were beginning to realize their potential in life as young men through this great sport, and that I was so fortunate to have been a part of it.''
Anyone who knows anything about building a team like Lisbon Wrestling realizes it takes a community, not just one person. That includes being surrounded by good human beings- assistants Bob Earle and Ted Albasini- both have coached over ten years. Earle who retired in 2007, was National Assistant Coach of the Year for USA Wrestling Magazine.
"I have a lifetime of gratitude to give to Bob and Ted,'' Stevens said, who also credited former athletic director Jeff Ramich who saw something in program. ''Bob was a life cheerleader , always making me feel like I am doing the right thing. When I would make a decision that was not the right one, he would gently say, coach you sure you want to do that? Ted also has been one of the most selfless, committed and honest men I have known. Our families have been our backbone of our wrestling community.''