Local high school wrestling coach set to leave rich legacy behind

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by GEORGE RIBA

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WFAA

Posted on February 10, 2012 at 1:13 AM

Updated Friday, Feb 10 at 11:49 AM

 

DALLAS, TX - After 30 years on the job, St Mark's wrestling coach Rick Ortega has collected a lot of stuff. Like his statue of George H W Bush, the 41st president of the United States.
 
"I found him over at Junkapalooza over on Lovers Lane and its one of a kind and I just like one of a kind things so I bought him and there he is," Ortega says.
 
Not be overlooked is Charlie, his favorite Monkey, who sits on a desk nearby. "A lot of the stuff my wife told me to get out of the house and so I brought it over here.
 
On the wall is a sign that reads take a number. The only trouble is it's attached to fake grenade.
 
"All the stuff, take a number (shot of grenade) I don't really know what to say about the office," says Nick Brower, one of the team captains."It’s always fun going into Coach Ortega's office unless he's mad at you."
 
When this school year ends, Ortega will retire taking with him his collectables and his formula for success.
 
"The enjoyment I get is when you have a boy that's limited athletically in talent and you work with him and work him and you see them get better and better and see that glow in their eyes when they win their first match, that's what's fun. I really enjoy that," Ortega says.
 
Ortega's coaching career spans 42 years. He's won 17 state championships and seen his teams win more than 650 dual meets. He has the touched the lives of thousands of youngsters.
 
"I had a wrestler that wasn't good but he never quit and he wrestled forever and he once told me coach, when I finish, I’m going to bronze one of my shoes and I’m going to give it to you. That was Paul Gutman back in 1996," Ortega says as he holds up the bronze shoe.
 
"He's always got great quotes for things and he does the same with his kids," says St Mark's athletic director Mark Sullivan. Sullivan arrived on the St Mark's campus 30 years ago, the same year that Ortega came to Dallas. The two have developed a lasting relationship. "I'm going to miss him because he's my friend. I'm going to miss him because he's personality in the department one that won't be easy to replace that's for sure."
 
Ortega has clever sayings hanging all over his office. Some are funny and some are motivational. "Actually this is my favorite here," Ortega says. "I got this when I was in college when I was wrestling 'When the whip touches the thoroughbred, he responds with all the strength in his sinews and the courage in his heart. When the whip touches the mule he balks and sulks.'"
 
When he leaves, Ortega is a man the program and the kids will miss.

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