(Hawarden, IA.) – The Siouxland Sports Authority wrote about Maurice-Orange City-FV head wrestling coach Lyle Lundgren and his son, Andrew Ludgren, head wrestling coach at Spirit Lake, and what it was like when son wrestled for dad, and then, as coaches, their teams met in competition on the mat.
One such combination has been going on for the last dozen-plus years right in our own NW Iowa back yard. Coach Mark Van Oort and his son Kory have been going the father-son/coach-son path from elementary to high school and it’s a story of trust, respect and love.
There’s a number of ways to start this story. The one beginning, however, that stands out is Coach Van Oort’s program turn-around at Hawarden-West Sioux a half-dozen years ago. That’s when he began working the school’s youth program by introducing the Falcon Wrestling Club. He had been working with a number of young wrestlers outside the West Sioux program – the Lynott boys, Adam Allard, his own son Kory – and spent a lot of time in the school’s hallways recruiting kids for the sport.
“Before we knew it, we were filling the [wrestling] room. After we had filled the room, we were winning duals. The wrestling culture grew. Our relation with the kids was solid, moving up beyond the wrestling room,” Van Oort said. “We talk about making sure we’re the best version of ourselves. We focus hard on academics. It’s just about building a culture and building a school.”
Coach Van Oort said at West Sioux, all the coaches have a positive influence on the school’s youth. “We’ve taught our kids that competing is fun and that if you work hard, you will win when you compete.”
The SSA delved into the father-son/coach-son subject.
“Working with Kory in youth wrestling, I made sure he had outside influence by knowledgeable people – Legends of Gold, under the likes of Terry Pack, Mike Menna, and Josh Nolan. Those guys taught Kory a lot. So, there were a lot of other people involved in helping my son,” Mark said.
“Kory has been a special kid for me to coach. His work ethic and determination are at the highest level. What we have together is when we go home, we’re father and son. Wrestling only comes up if he wants to bring it up.” The two spend a lot of time watching the Iowa Hawkeyes together, looking at results of tournaments, or watching Morningside wrestle. "Foremost, outside of our own West Sioux wrestling room, we’re father and son.”
Coaching your own son, Mark said, draws both father and son closer together. “Kory and I are best friends in life, but that relationship took time. It wasn’t always easy. Going to the mat as often as we did was a force that taught us to how to make our relationship a success. From the very beginning,” Mark continued, “we were and are both passionate about wrestling.”
Every tournament always ends on a positive note, he said. Mark, his wife Nikki, son Kory, daughter Addisyn, and youngest son, Dustin, go out to dinner together. “We make it a family relationship, which is about all of us together.”
All parents can serve their son or daughter well, Mark said, by supporting their endeavors, and not living vicariously through them. “In my relationship with my son, it was very important to me that I understood that this had to be about what Kory wanted and not what I wanted,” the West Sioux coach said.
When your son wrestles, he and his teammates become friends. Subsequently, it’s natural that his teammates come over to the Van Oort house. Just as with his son, Mark is Kory’s dad at home. “It actually creates a special bond,” Coach Van Oort said. “Kids like Trevor Schuller, Logan Koedam, Adam Allard, both Lynott boys, Netti Montez, Darlyn Marquez, who graduated last year… were always around our house.”
Wrestlers, he said, as a whole are a tight-knit group, and at West Sioux that is amply so. “A lot of coaches talk about the family created in a program,” Van Oort said, “and I know Coach Ryan Schiesow [head football coach at WS] talks about that. Our kids here are all very close, very unselfish. Obviously, my son, Kory, being around these great sports classes at West Sioux has built a tremendous relationship among the kids, coaches, teachers, administration, parents and community.”
Later, the SSA met with Kory Van Oort.
He’s now wrestling at 152 in Class 1A, and when asked what his current record is, he said he honestly didn’t know. That’s OK, because The Predicament has him ranked #2 in Iowa.
As a freshman, he wrestled his way to the State tournament in Des Moines at 132. As a sophomore, he made it again, that time earning a silver medal, second place finish at 138. Last year, Kory again earned his way to the Big House at 145, wrestled coming off the flu, and turned in a fifth place finish.
Asked about his life time experience as a wrestler, and son of a coach, Kory said “It’s been awesome. Dad’s coached me forever. I never really never had another coach other than my dad; we figured out a good relationship between dad and coach – they’re not the same person. Looking over the years, I honestly wouldn’t have wanted anyone else to coach me in high school. I think it’s been a cool experience not many other kids can say they’ve had.”
How did fellow wrestlers view the coach-son relationship?
“I never found anyone on our team viewed us any differently than had we not been a coach and son. In the wrestling room, he’s coach, and outside the wrestling room, he’s dad. He treats me like he does everyone else.”
Ever wrestle your dad? Kory was asked. He laughed. “He’s quite a bit bigger than me, but every once in awhile we’ll throw down…[laughs] and tends to get the better of me, but it’s fun to do every once in a while.”
After graduation, Kory will continue his wrestling career at Morningside College. So, his future is set as far as the next level is concerned. He said he’s looking forward to that time. As of this point, however, Kory is thinking of the matches ahead and making it to State for a fourth time in a row.
What has his relationship with his father and coach taught him?
“So many things,” he said retrospectively. “My dad counted on me to be a leader, something I’ve really embraced. I try to be a team leader, team captain – one of the things I always wanted to be.”
"Wrestling", he continued", has taught me a lot, not only about the sport, but also about myself. Discipline is critically important. It teaches you how to control your diet because you have to maintain weight. You have to eat right because there’s so much out there that just doesn’t help you nutritionally. It teaches you to get up in the morning and head to the weight room to work out. It teaches you that doing the same thing all the time won’t help you improve. You have to challenge yourself constantly.”
Just like everyone else, Kory has experienced losses. In his case, after having lost a decision, his father talks to him as a coach and as he does with every wrestler". He explains what he thinks I did wrong. We go over the match, look at the video, and go over what I can do differently. Then, when we get home, he talks to me from a father’s perspective. I think it’s just cool the way we can balance the different roles we have.”
Being together means moving on.
“It helps that we both have a passion for the sport. We talk about wrestling, and go watch it together. It’s one of the bonds we have. We love to compete together. We love wrestling; it’s special to us.”
That leaves just one more objective: State. That’s Feb. 16, 2019.