By Becky Walz,
Friday, Jan. 28, 2022, will always be a special date for Luther College wrestling coach Dave Mitchell. Following a hard-fought 18-13 victory over the University of Dubuque, Coach Mitchell had secured his 300th career dual meet victory and joined legendary Hall of Fame coaches Al Baxter (376-119-5) of Buena Vista University and Jim Miller 9413-37-2) of Wartburg College, as the only head coaches to accomplish this feat while coaching in the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and rebranded as the American Rivers Conference on Aug. 9, 2018.
Longevity in today’s coaching profession is rare, but even more rare is having an assistant coach who is not only a former college teammate, but a friend through 25-plus years of coaching in the most difficult wrestling conference in the NCAA III. Jeff O’Gara has been Coach Mitchell’s assistant since 1996-97, the first year he was head coach for the Norse.
Together, they have had the privilege of coaching 61 All-Americans that includes nine national champions and nine national runner-ups, 56 Scholar All-Americans, three NCAA Postgraduate Scholars, five CoSIDA Scholar All-Americans and two Iowa Conference Male Scholar Athletes of the Year. They have also directed Norse teams to five top-five finishes at the NCAA III National Championships seven times — finishing 3rd (2016, 2006, 2005, 2004); 5th (2003); 4th (2001, 2007).
“I would like to thank the hundreds of Luther College wresters that contributed to the 300 wins,” commented Mitchell. “Those wins are theirs and the Luther wresting family is strong and growing. It is rare and special to have the same assistant coach for the past 26 years. He is a great friend, fierce competitor, and high level coach and we complement each other for the betterment of our guys. This accomplishment is his more than it is mine. I would like to also thank my family for their amazing support and love throughout the years. It is special to have my two sons on this year’s team, and to have two daughters who are Luther grads. And finally, thank you to Luther College and the great colleagues, friends and alumni who have been a part of this program for the past 71 years. Luther is a special place filled with special people. Go Norse!”
During his career, Coach Mitchell has been named Iowa Conference Coach of the Year five times, named the NCAA III National Coach of the Year in 2004, and was inducted into the Division III National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) Hall of Fame in 2010.
Seven years later, Coach O’Gara was also inducted into the Division III National NWCA Hall of Fame for his outstanding career at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. During his career he posted a career record of 114-12 that included 58 falls and captured a national championship with a perfect 34-0 mark his senior year.