First honorees inducted into new Bulldog Wrestling Hall of Fame

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The first four honorees were inducted into the newly created Bulldog Wrestling Hall of Fame during a ceremony at Saturday’s MFL MarMac Invitational. The hall of fame is named in honor of longtime volunteer and coach, the late Al Reicks, whose family helped induct the four members, including Dave Sanger (second from left) and Dale Echard (right). Inductees Doug Martin and Jim Dohse were unable to attend. (Photos by Audrey Posten)

MFL MarMac wrestling coach Chet Bachman led the hall of fame induction ceremony. He hopes the hall of fame will instill pride not just in the school's wrestling program, but in the community.

Dave Sanger, who was an athlete, teacher and coach at MFL, was one of four inductees into the Bulldog Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Dale Echard accepts a plaque from the Reicks family upon his induction into the Bulldog Wrestling Hall of Fame.

By Audrey Posten, Times-Register

 

The first four honorees were inducted into the newly created Bulldog Wrestling Hall of Fame during a ceremony at Saturday’s MFL MarMac Invitational.

 

The hall of fame is named in honor of longtime volunteer and coach, the late Al Reicks, whose family helped induct the four members: Doug Martin, Jim Dohse, Dave Sanger and Dale Echard.

 

“I was very close with Al,” who passed away this past summer, said MFL MarMac head wrestling coach Chet Bachman. “I’ve known him since I was a kid.”

 

Reicks encouraged Bachman to create a Bulldog Wrestling Hall of Fame.

 

“He knew how important it was and what it would mean to people,” Bachman said. “But I was busy and couldn’t put it together. Now, we decided to do it.”

 

A native of Cresco, Reicks brought his love of wrestling with him to MFL when wife Debbie got a teaching job with the district. He started volunteering his time with the Bulldog wrestling team under head coach Doug Martin, and worked with the junior high and high school programs for 22 years.

 

“Al was always willing to stay late and work one-on-one with any wrestler to achieve their goals,” Bachman said. “Over the years, Al worked with state champions, state place winners and conference champions. One of the prides of his life was being able to coach his son Taylor to four conference championships and two state medals.”

 

After moving away from Monona, Reicks continued to stay active in the sport, serving on the board of the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame.

 

“Al never stopped trying to see the sport of wrestling grow in this community,” said Bachman. “What an honor it was to create this in his name, and we’ve got some great people to recognize to start our Bulldog Wrestling Hall of Fame.”

 

The first inductee, Doug Martin, “was here for a long time, put a lot of time into our sport and watched it grow,” shared Bachman. 

 

Martin originally didn’t plan on coaching, but there was no one else on staff with a wrestling background in 1983, so he agreed to take the position because he wanted the wrestlers to have a chance to grow their skills and compete. 

 

“The goal was to have a state champion,” said Bachman, a milestone that was reached in 1996 with Jeremy Neuhaus. 

 

Martin coached at the varsity level for 13 seasons and two as an assistant coach, and also helped coach at the middle school level for 18 seasons.

 

The second inductee, Jim Dohse, started the school’s wrestling program in 1964, when he came to MFL as a math teacher. At that time, said Bachman, the wrestling room was in downtown Monona in the ice cream parlor. 

 

Dohse was at MFL for six years, where he coached the other Bulldog Wrestling Hall of Fame inductees, Dave Sanger and Dale Echard.

 

“He’s the one who started it all, who recruited and coached Dale and Dave,” Bachman said.

 

Echard was one of only a few Bulldog wrestlers to have an undefeated regular season and was MFL’s first state place winner, coming in third his senior year. He started working with the school’s wrestling program in the 1980s, under Martin.

 

“He got his coaching authorization and started running our little kids practices and did that for 20 years. Some of the kids went on to be high school state champs,” said Bachman, who called Echard “the godfather of the little kids program.”

 

“Without Dale, we wouldn’t be here with the program we have,” he added.

 

Echard was also a referee for 25 years, and still continues to help in that capacity with the youth program.

 

The final inductee, Dave Sanger, had a storied athletic career in both high school and college. A 1966 MFL graduate, he participated in track and football for four years and wrestled just his senior season, which was the second year of the program, going 23-3 and winning five out of six tourneys in which he participated.

 

“He was a conference champ and first state qualifier for MFL, and Jim Dohse was his high school coach,” Bachman said.

 

Sanger attended Upper Iowa University on a football scholarship and also participated in wrestling and track. He was honorable mention All-American in football his junior and senior years and also held the career rushing record for many years. His wrestling record in college was 106-6-1 and he was a three-time conference champion, two-time national runner up in 1968 and 1970 and the national champion in 1969. 

 

He graduated with honors with a double major in mathematics and physical education, plus a teaching degree, and, in 1970, accepted a teaching position at MFL as a math teacher, assistant football coach, head wrestling coach and girls track coach. He taught at MFL until 1980 and also coached the school to its first conference championship.

 

“They don’t make them anymore like they make Dave Sanger,” said Bachman, who feels the Bulldog Wrestling Hall of Fame embodies more than just wrestling accomplishments. “It’s also about what kind of people they are in the community.”

 

This first class “builds the foundation” of the hall of the fame, Bachman noted. The banner will hang in the wrestling room and receive a new addition each year.

 

“We’ll put together some bylaws, some criteria,” he said. Inductees might not necessarily be wrestlers or coaches, but volunteers or managers who gave a lot to the program.

 

Bachman hopes the hall of fame will instill pride not just in the wrestling program, but in the community.

 

“It builds character for the program, to recognize community members who’ve done so much for our school and our kids. We want to institute that pride in our building, in our community,” he said. “Hopefully it will spill over. There are a lot of things we can recognize.”

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