Small College Sports

Cornell Coach Mike Duroe dies after fight with brain cancer

Rams all-time dual wins leader battled glioblastoma since September

Team USA celebrates winning the gold medal match over Azerbaijan at the 2018 Freestyle Wrestling World Cup at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Sunday, April 8, 2018. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Team USA celebrates winning the gold medal match over Azerbaijan at the 2018 Freestyle Wrestling World Cup at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Sunday, April 8, 2018. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
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After a lifetime devoted to wrestling, one of the sport’s top ambassadors and Cornell College Coach, Mike Duroe, died early Friday morning after a battle with brain cancer.

Duroe, a 63-year-old Charles City native, impacted numerous lives in almost four decades as a coach at the high school, college and international levels, including the last 13 years for the Rams. He is the all-time dual wins leader at Cornell, coaching 47 NCAA qualifiers, 22 All-Americans and five NCAA finalists including 2014 197-pound NCAA champion Alex Coolidge.

“We lost a giant in the sport of wrestling today,” Cornell Athletics Director Keith Hackett said in a statement. “Mike Duroe was without question one of the finest and most dedicated men in the sport at any level. He developed love of the sport in hundreds, if not thousands, of young athletes and taught them as much about leading a good and successful life as he did about the sport of wrestling. We will all miss him very much.”

Duroe started to suffer symptoms in September 2017 and was diagnosed with glioblastoma. He stayed involved in the wrestling program through the season.

Duroe is member of the National Wrestling Coaches Association Division III Hall of Fame and is part of the 2018 induction class to the Cornell Athletics Hall of Fame. He elevated Cornell to new heights, winning 144 duals and leading the Rams to top-eight national finishes in 2008 and 2009.

He made as big of an impact in development off the mat.

“When he took me in I wasn’t even sure what I wanted,” Former Cornell wrestler and current Rams assistant Brent Hamm said. “I thought he wanted me to be a great wrestler the whole time, which in part he did, but little did I realize he was trying to grow me into a successful person in life.

“I think that is ultimately why he’s so powerful, because he just didn’t do that for me. He did that with thousands of other people.”

Duroe made coaching stops at New Trier (Ill.) High School, Northern Michigan, University of Pennsylvania, Hawkeye Wrestling Club and USA Wrestling. He served as USA Wrestling’s Freestyle Developmental Coach from 1998-2000. Duroe was the Freestyle Resident Coach for Team USA in 2001.

His work ethic left an impression on anyone who crossed paths with the 1978 Drake graduate and former Bulldogs wrestling captain.

“This is a guy who volunteered thousands of hours to USA Wrestling and the Hawkeye Wrestling Club,” Tom Brands said. “USA Wrestling is better because of him. He worked there. He had many ideas that impacted how we train our age groups, our cadets, our juniors.”

Duroe helped coached Tom and Terry Brands in their international careers. Tom is a World champion and 1996 Olympic gold medalist. Terry is a two-time World champion and 2000 Olympic bronze medalist.

Tom said Duroe was a good complement to legendary coach Dan Gable. He added that Duroe’s energy was perfect to have the night before and after weigh-in, during a meal after weigh-in and right before competition.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever given Mike Duroe enough credit for my career,” Tom Brands said. “Mike Duroe was there every step of the way with Terry and I both.”

Duroe played an important part in Iowa City securing the USA Wrestling Olympic Team Trials in 2012 and 2016. He was a factor in the 2018 World Cup being held at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The last image is of him on the awards stand with Team USA after its gold-medal performance.

“He’s definitely a hall of fame caliber coach,” Terry Brands said. “There is no question in my mind.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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