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Amir Hadzic’s extensive soccer coaching tree continues to grow in Eastern Iowa
Kory Boebel’s Marion Wolves beat Sho Takaoka’s Xavier Saints in coaching battle of former Mount Mercy players
CEDAR RAPIDS — Sho Takaoka “never thought” coaching was in his future. Kory Boebel “had no plans of it” either.
But Amir Hadzic, their coach at Mount Mercy, saw the future while the two played for him from 2013 to 2016.
That future was here Saturday at Saints Field, where the former Mustangs stood on the sideline as head coaches for two of Class 2A’s best boys’ soccer programs.
“It’s really special, kind of seeing each other grow up and coaching these teams,” Takaoka said after his Cedar Rapids Xavier Saints took a hard-fought 1-0 loss to Boebel’s Marion Wolves. “I really wanted to win this game but he outplayed us.”
Hadzic convinced Takaoka to give coaching a shot on his Mount Mercy staff after graduation. He was an assistant at Linn-Mar (for MMU alum Corey Brinkmeyer) before also joining Hadzic at Xavier in 2019. Now, Takaoka is another branch on an extensive Hadzic coaching tree of former MMU players that also features Cedar Rapids Washington’s J.P. Graham (another Mount Mercy assistant) and Cedar Rapids Jefferson’s John O’Connor.
Takaoka took over at Xavier this season as Hadzic stepped away for two hip replacement surgeries after winning a fifth state title last spring.
“He always sees potential in people and his players,” Takaoka said.
Boebel added a branch in 2019, his first season since being promoted at Marion after Marco Fichtner (yup, another former Mustang) moved to Australia. It was Hadzic who had called up Fichtner and recommended Boebel as an assistant.
“I just said, ‘sure, why not!’ and absolutely fell in love with it,” Boebel said.
Boebel led the Wolves to state last season, where they ran into Hadzic’s Saints in a 1-0 quarterfinal defeat. Xavier (1-2) also won last year’s regular-season meeting 4-0, so Aiden Comried’s centering pass to Austin Kochan for a 44th-minute goal gave Marion (3-1) a win it relished in a competitive non-conference measuring stick of a match.
“It’s a blast. It’s a blast. It’s a nice little rivalry, especially renewed with me playing at Mount Mercy with Sho,” Boebel said. “We’re really proud of him. He’s really stepped up this year and I know he’s going to do an amazing job with this program.”
Takaoka and Boebel lived in the same dorm at Mount Mercy and helped the team reach the NAIA national tournament in 2015. They both have extensive lists of lessons learned from Hadzic that they use now with their own teams.
“I learned from him that he’s always trying to learn about each player on a personal level,” said Takaoka, who grew up in Japan and spent a year at Cedar Rapids Kennedy as a foreign exchange student. “I really try to do that.”
“I had teammates from pretty much everywhere across the globe,” said Boebel, who graduated from Cedar Rapids Prairie. “You really have no team chemistry, have no idea who you’re playing with when you first come into the preseason. By the end of the year, Amir was just able to get us to mesh really well and create a family.”