Hahn reflects on championship-filled 33-year career at Glenbard North

  • Mark Hahn retired as Glenbard North's wrestling coach last year after a 33-year run that saw him coach 151 state qualifiers and 23 state champions.

    Mark Hahn retired as Glenbard North's wrestling coach last year after a 33-year run that saw him coach 151 state qualifiers and 23 state champions. Daily Herald file photo

 
 
Updated 1/12/2021 3:14 PM

Mark Hahn, who molded the Glenbard North wrestling team into one of the state's best from 1987 until 2020, didn't get the chance to say goodbye the way he wanted last March.

Hahn was set to announce his retirement at the team's award banquet. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hahn didn't get that opportunity.

 

He did let his assistant coaches and varsity kids know this September in a socially distanced gathering at his home.

But it wasn't the same -- just like it's not the same to be spending this winter outside the Glenbard North wrestling room.

"I didn't get the opportunity to thank my assistants and my family," Hahn said. "I wanted to do it in a public arena. My assistants have been with me so many years."

Hahn is one of the most accomplished coaches in any sport in IHSA history.

The numbers are incredible. His teams went 716-153-2 in dual matches. He coached 151 state qualifiers, 78 state place winners and 23 state champions.

Glenbard North won 18 straight DuPage Valley Conference championships, 28 regionals, qualified for team state 16 times, finished third in state eight years, second twice and won the 2011 state championship.

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Hahn didn't spend much time celebrating that success while coaching. It's pretty rewarding, however, to look back on it now.

"When you are actively coaching it's really not very helpful to think about what you have done," Hahn said. "You are always thinking about the team that's in front of you and in your room. But now that it's over and you look back and see how many great teams Glenbard North wrestling had over the years it's kind of fun to look back and think about it."

He did all that at the school he graduated from in 1977 where he wrestled for four years under Bob Fulk. It's also a school that was built in 1967 on land that used to be the Hahn's family farm.

Mark grew up on that farm, learning the work ethic that he passed on to his wrestlers for almost four decades. Hahn first started wrestling when he was 9.

"I was always looking forward to going there (Glenbard North) as a student and athlete," Hahn said. "Once I graduated I always wanted to come back and coach there. I wasn't sure if my journey would get me there but it was almost like I was destined to be part of that school and program."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Hahn played two years of football at College of DuPage and two more at Illinois Benedictine. He got hired at Glenbard North as a math teacher and later switched to P.E. He started as an assistant to Fulk before taking over as head coach in 1987-88.

Hahn retired from teaching P.E. at Glenbard North in 2017 but stayed on as coach, in part because of his son-in-law, Tom Gudella. Hahn brought in Gudella as an assistant coach because he was so impressed with how he motivates kids.

The Panthers' new coach is Travis Cherry, a Glenbard North alum and the son of one of Hahn's first assistant coaches, Jeff Cherry.

While Hahn knew this year was coming without coaching for the first time in so long, it's still been adjustment.

"It's really strange," Hahn said. "I keep thinking this weekend we would have been at the Dvorak or been at Clash or we would have been doing morning workouts or whatever. It's weird, it's awkward.

"I've got things to do but still very strange not going to practice each day. I still think about the program every day but it's different not doing it."

Those things to do include watching over a farm he and his wife Karen bought in Jo Daviess County in the Northwest part of the state. They grow corn and soybeans and raise cattle.

The couple has two daughters, Laura and Emily, who both teach English, and two young grandchildren.

As for all the success as a coach, Hahn is humble above anything else, giving credit to his assistants, wrestlers, and those who came before him.

"I would say I was a decent manger," Hahn said. "I wouldn't say I was a great coach or anything like that. I took over a really good program from Bob Fulk and I didn't want to screw it up. I think I did a pretty good job managing it. I had some great assistant coaches, great wrestling families and great feeder system with the Cougars and Gomez wrestling. I had a lot of great things to work with. I kept it going in the right direction. Everybody believed in it and what we could accomplish and we did accomplish a lot."

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