Mike Duroe, the longtime wrestling coach at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, died Friday morning following his battle with brain cancer. He was 63.
Duroe spent 13 years as the Rams’ head wrestling coach. He was the winningest coach in program history. This past season, while being treated for glioblastoma, Duroe led Cornell College to a 17th-place team finish at the Division III NCAA Wrestling Championships, an effort anchored by three All-American wrestlers.
”Coach Duroe brings out of his athletes a desire to wrestle their tails off for him and get better every day,” Iowa associate head coach Terry Brands said in a release from the Hawkeye Wrestling Club on Friday. “He exudes confidence in his coaching that creates the desire in his athletes to want to destroy the opposition.
”For that, we say thank you. As a coach, I want to bring those same qualities out of every single one of our athletes.”
Duroe was diagnosed last September, and the news shook the wrestling community. During his 38-year coaching career, Duroe worked with athletes of all levels — high school, collegiate and senior-level freestyle wrestlers who compete internationally.
His efforts within the sport have been widely recognized. In January of this year, the Iowa Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame presented Duroe with the Lifetime Service to Wrestling Award. He is also a member of the National Wrestling Coaches Association Division III Hall of Fame.
”Coach Duroe had a spirit for adventure that was infectious,” Iowa coach Tom Brands said in the same Hawkeye Wrestling Club release. “That energy went way beyond his coaching. He made boys into great men.”
Many of those wrestlers and coaches took to social media to express their condolences. Duroe grew up Charles City and wrestled at Drake. He graduated from the Des Moines school in 1978, then immediately jumped into coaching.
“Sad to hear about Mike Duroe passing,” wrote Nick Mitchell, Grand View’s wrestling coach. “He was a great guy who always made time to catch up at every event we’d see each other at. I hope to make the same kind of impact on the sport that Coach Duroe has.”
For years, Duroe worked with the Hawkeye Wrestling Club. He’s coached both Terry Brands and Spencer Lee. He was a regular in the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“Mike Duroe was not only one of the greatest coaches I have ever been around he was an even better person,” wrote Tony Ramos, a former Iowa star who’s now an assistant coach at North Carolina.
“Coach Duroe has taught me many lesson that I can carry through life and share with others. You will never be forgotten and your legacy will live on for ever! We love you!”
Duroe was one of the honorary coaches selected by USA Wrestling for the UWW Freestyle World Cup in April. He was on the floor for all four of Team USA’s duals, coaching behind national team coach Bill Zadick. He joined the team on the stage after the Americans beat Azerbaijan in the finals.
“I only had a few short conversations with Mike Duroe, and one of them was at the World Cup,” wrote Taylor Miller, the communications coordinator for USA Wrestling.
“We were in the Iowa wrestling room and he pointed to the team and said ‘they are what keep me going.’ Heartwarming moment. Wonderful man.”
In an interview with the Des Moines Register last December, Duroe explained that the wrestling community enveloped him and his family with support shortly after his diagnosis was made public. A GoFundMe account raised more than $28,000 to help with medical expenses, but Duroe said he would be re-donating the money for pediatric cancer research.
“Wrestling is an individual sport, but I feel like the team aspect is important for confidence,” Duroe said in December. “Teams need to support each other. That can be very powerful.
“You know you’re not fighting alone.”
Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.