Mike Duroe is one of those guys I thought would live forever.
I remember walking into the hotel sauna on the morning just before the 2006 NCAA tournament in Oklahoma City and Duroe was sitting in there with wrestling legend Dan Gable.
Mike had already completed his workout and I recall joking with him that he looked like he could still compete.
Mike was in his early 50s at the time, but he looked much younger than that.
He featured a chiseled physique and bore a striking resemblance to actor Robert Redford.
He has always had a huge passion and commitment for the sport of wrestling. He coached at the Division I level, he helped coach the U.S. women to their only world team title and he made significant contributions as a coach for the Hawkeye Wrestling Club.
Duroe was in the corner coaching Tom Brands when he won an Olympic gold medal in 1996 in Atlanta.
For the past 13 seasons, he’s been the head coach at Cornell College and has excelled at the Division III level. He’s the winningest coach in Cornell’s storied school history.
When I recently learned that Mike is battling brain cancer, I was floored by the news.
There aren’t many people on the planet healthier or more physically fit for their age than Mike Duroe.
Mike is a high-energy, intense, determined and driven coach who pushes his athletes to excel.
He also isn’t bashful about making his feelings known during a match and he’s known for keeping referees on their toes.
I always enjoyed some of the sarcasm and wit he used on the officials while coaching from the corner.
I’ve seen him excel as a coach on the collegiate level and on the international level. He cares deeply about the athletes he coaches and he develops a strong rapport with his teams.
Mike is one of the best people I’ve met in wrestling. Whenever I see him, he always greets me with a smile. He makes sure to come over and shake hand my hand and engage in conversation. And he usually throws in a funny comment to make me laugh.
He’s a genuinely good, honest, decent man who is very kind, friendly and respectful.
He’s an intelligent guy whose opinions are never in short supply. He’s not afraid to speak his mind and fight for something he believes in.
As we all know, cancer is a cruel, unforgiving and awful disease. I lost my father to pancreatic cancer in August.
It breaks my heart to think of what Mike and his family are going through right now. He has two children under the age of 10.
Mike was coaching during a dual meet against Wartburg College this past Friday night and the visiting Knights wore shirts that supported the Cornell coach. A smiling Duroe posed with the Wartburg wrestlers and coaches after the dual.
Mike is being honored at a celebration this Saturday in Cedar Rapids.
The news of his illness has been kept relatively quiet until recently in the wrestling community.
Dick Simmons, who was a long-time member of the Cornell athletic department, keeps in close contact with Duroe.
Simmons offered high praise for how Duroe has kept his spirits high and maintained a positive attitude despite the daily challenges and struggles he now faces.
For those of us fortunate to know Mike, that should come as no surprise.
Mike Duroe is a class act all the way.
And someone who is going to fight this with everything he has.
You can count on that.