While an assistant wrestling coach the past nine years here at the University of Minnesota, Mark Schwab said there were two Division III coaching jobs he coveted.
One was Wartburg College and the other was Buena Vista University.
"Both those programs have outstanding traditions," said Schwab, 36.
Schwab got his wish this week when he was hired to succeed legendary BVU wrestling coach Al Baxter as the head grappling coach for the Beavers.
Schwab, a native of Osage and a standout wrestler at the University of Northern Iowa in his college days, says he knows he has big shoes to fill.
"The first thing I want to do is make sure we uphold the tradition that Al started and continued for a long time," Schwab said. "And we'd like to up the program a notch, with the ultimate goal of winning a national championship.
"But that's down the road and you have to take it season by season. Al was a tremendous coach and built a great program. And my experience with him was like everybody else's - very positive."
Schwab said he'll be on campus by Aug. 1, but he was already making calls to potential BVU recruits last Thursday morning.
Recruiting is something Schwab is used to at Minnesota, he said.
"I did a lot of that and a lot of traveling over the past nine years, so I'm familiar with that part of the job," he said. "But I also worked on a daily basis in the practice room at Minnesota, working on techniques with wrestlers and conditioning."
Schwab added that he intends to keep up Baxter's tradition of exciting and aggressive wrestling."
"The two keys for a wrestler are endurance and getting after people on the mat," he said. "That's what fans will see at BVU and hopefully it will be successful."
Success, meanwhile, has followed Schwab from his high school days in Osage through his college career at UNI and as an assistant for the Gophers in the Big Ten Conference.
At Osage High, he was a four-time state champion, compiling a stellar record of 106-1. He was also the first-ever wrestler to win three Junior National Freestyle titles. He also won a National Greco-Roman title.
Schwab joined his older brother Mike at Northern Iowa in 1986 and won more matches as a true freshman than anyone else in NCAA history. During his first year at UNI, he compiled a 49-9 overall record and placed fifth in the NCAA Division I National championships.
As a sophomore, Schwab was redshirted to train for the 1988 Olympic games.
Returning to the college scene, Schwab was still ranked No. 1 in the U.S. at 114.5 pounds and No. 1 in the college rankings at 118 pounds. After compiling a record of 17-1-1, Schwab was injured in a dual meet and required surgery, and was later diagnosed with a severe staph infection that required nine knee surgeries.
Schwab climbed to the top of the polls and once again was crowned with All-American honors at 118 pounds. He completed his college career with a 115-18 mark.
He was an assistant at UNI and Purdue University before joining Jay Robinson at Minnesota in the fall of 1995. He earned his master's degree in education from Minnesota in 2003.
During his tenure for the Gophers, Schwab helped the U of M wrestlers to back to back NCAA Division I national titles, along with placing second twice
"We are thrilled that Coach Schwab has accepted the position," said BVU President Fred Moore. "He advocates an up-tempo, hard-working, exciting style of wrestling that perfectly fits our tradition at BVU."
In the summer of 2001, Schwab served as head coach of the of the United States 2001 Junior World Freestyle championships team.
"We are excited and enthusiastic about having Mark join our coaching team," said BVU athletic director Jan Travis. "He brings dynamic leadership, experience and energy to our wrestling program."