Prep Wrestling

From coach to official: Mark Kenny gets new perspective at Iowa state wrestling tournament

Former Benton Community assistant makes state debut as official

Referee Mark Kenny works mat one as Webster City's Camron Phetxoumphone and West Delaware's Carson Less wrestle during t
Referee Mark Kenny works mat one as Webster City’s Camron Phetxoumphone and West Delaware’s Carson Less wrestle during their 106-weight bout in Class 2A round one of the 2020 IHSAA State Wrestling Championships at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)
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DES MOINES — Mark Kenny, a former assistant wrestling coach of 13 years at Benton Community, went home to his wife after an event and complained about the officiating.

She had a simple solution: Become an official.

“My wife said, ‘If you don’t like some of the calls that are being made, get a whistle and do it yourself,’” Kenny said. “So that’s when I got into it and now this is my eighth year. I got involved with the Eastern Iowa Wrestling Officials Association and made some friends that way and started working little kids tournaments and junior high meets. I used some of my coaching connections to see if they needed any officials so I progressed from junior High to junior varsity to varsity.

“I just tried to get as many events in as I could.”

Now, for the first time, Kenny is refereeing the Iowa state wrestling tournament at Wells Fargo Arena.

“It’s nerve wracking but I’ve been fortunate through some of the events that I’ve worked to work some pretty marquee events,” Kenny said. “I’ve done the Disney National Duals, I’ve been fortunate enough to go to Virginia Beach National Duals, Super 32, which is one of the biggest preseason tournaments in the country.

“I’ve seen all different levels of competition but there’s nothing better than stepping out on that stage for the Iowa state tournament because this is what every official in Iowa wants to do.”

Kenny, who is now a seventh grade math teacher and activities coordinator at McKinley Middle School in Cedar Rapids, has worked all aspects of the Iowa state wrestling tournament — he’s been a coach, he’s worked at the scorer’s table running TrackWrestling and now he’s an official.

“I tried to do any clerical duties I could to help when I was helping run TrackWrestling,” Kenny said. “If I found time, I’d fill in on the mat if they needed an extra scorer. If they needed ankle bands run down to mat one, I’d run ankle bands down to mat one.

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“I love the sport of wrestling — it’s what I do. Anything I can do to help the sport, I will.”

Kenny went from being a coach who complained about officials’ calls to being an official who knows some coaches will complain about his calls.

“The pressure on the mat is different than the pressure I had at the scoring table because you want to get every call right and you know with every call that some coaches might be happy and some might be disappointed,” Kenny said. “The Iowa state wrestling tournament is an incredible atmosphere.”

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