Marko to compete at Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic (fka Dapper Dan Classic)
Hunter Marko Represents as 145 lb. Team USA All Star Saturday, March 26
By Justin Bystrom | 3-25-2016 | Wisconsin Wrestling Online
Being well trained is different than being well educated. This saying applies in life as it does in wrestling. Hunter Marko is fortunate to have the best of both worlds. The Amery Wisconsin (high school enrollment 447 / population 2,859) senior capped his final high school season with a state championship (36-0) at 138 lb. It was notable; quite notable as he became only the 14th wrestler in Wisconsin history to earn four titles. High school wrestling has a pretty good following; however, some might also appreciate that he has also won the (2013 USA Wrestling) Junior Freestyle Nationals in the nation’s largest and most competitive tournament. He also earned the title the previous year as a cadet in both Freestyle as well as Greco-Roman styles in the same year. Just nine wrestlers in the country had won prestigious USA Wrestling Triple Crowns in the Cadet division entering that season (2012). In all, he has earned USA Wrestling’s All-American status 12 times (as of the printing of this article he is planning on competing this summer as well). In fact, when given the choice, he loves folkstyle; but, has more fun wrestling Freestyle. In Freestyle, he can control more of the match, the pace and the general tone of the contest.
Like many kids (and adults), he likes video games, hunting, fishing, hanging out with friends, likes ice cream and has a true weakness for Chipotle and grilled burgers. He also truly enjoys wrestling. When asked what motivated him (in terms of wrestling), he simply “hates losing”. He doesn’t want to feel like that ever again. He credits a loss earlier in his career that really pushed him to never experience that (complete butt whooping) ever again. In addition to traditional schoolwork, he also studies his favorite wrestler’s matches such as Port Washington / Oklahoma State’s Alex Derringer and Illinois’ Isiah Martinez. He not only watches; he analyzes in his drive to learn and truly understand how the elite do things. He understands that all of the elite athletes have a common not-so-obvious element. They have partners that push them to get better. Hunter solely credits his best friend Andrew Smith for being that guy. Thick and thin, tired or not, Andrew was and still is the best partner Hunter could ask for. “We are best friends. We hunt; we fish; we play and we wrestle.”
Both Hunter and his Mom Brooke Marko reiterated that their priorities are God, Family and then down the list is athletics. His mom’s challenges are as tough as most mothers of four; however, with the priorities in proper order, along with the encouragement and support of both her and dad Scott Marko’s parents – Hunter’s individual needs or travel tend to never supersede the direction or desire of his brothers and sister. Perspective: this season, Brooke encouraged Hunter to restrain from social media, not read any commentary and did her best to keep as many distractions at bay as possible. Hunter’s dad Scott is also his high school coach and most influential wrestling mentor. He has always pushed Hunter and always been his (tied with Brooke) biggest fan. On occasion Scott mentioned it was tough to delineate between his role of being Hunter’s dad and being his coach; however, Scott was always aware of the differences and often needed to remind Hunter that “this is Dad talking” or “this is your coach talking”. Brooke’s frequent drives with Hunter to Pinnacle School of Wrestling (Shoreview / Minneapolis) provided mom-time with Hunter and a great time for Brooke to catch up and make the most of their time together.
Luke Becker, Brandon Paulson and the other coaches from Pinnacle have frequently told Hunter that (the other guy) is often bigger, stronger and faster; however, he simply has to find a way to win. That bit of education / motivation / concession has made him focus on proper technique, explosiveness, and the need to continually improve position. Pinnacle also provided additional training 3-4 days per week this season (after Amery’s high school practice and after the hour one-way drive). His education continued not only with great mat time in Amery and at Pinnacle; however, it was also the support of others including Kal Gerber (3x state champion – Cameron, WI), and Kevin Black (4x state champion – River Falls). Kal has been a great friend, a great periodic training partner and always provides good perspective. Hunter was also a student for many years at Kevin Black’s Victory School of Wrestling. Kevin “helped me this season when I was trying to work out some mental highs and lows this winter”. He was great. “He is such a calm, focused and insightful person”. Kevin has always been able to provide such a unique and beneficial perspective to me. Hunter’s dad Scott described Kevin as “the wrestler whisperer” in “the most positive way possible”. Scott also acknowledges that Hunter’s complete mat focus on the smallest of details and the littlest of things; completely helped him throughout his career. Hunter was a special athlete that would literally leave nothing in the tank; leave nothing left in reserve. He would work out to the point of exhaustion in the (wrestling) room. Hunter knew that one of his advantages could certainly be his cardio in the third period against any opponent.
According to Brooke, many years ago when we were at one of the Wisconsin State High School Championships – Scott was coaching and Hunter, his siblings and Brooke were in the stands. Brooke recalled that it was during the Saturday March of Champions, Introductions and finals ceremony that Hunter was mesmerized. Later after one of the champions received a Kohl Center standing ovation, he asked if she thought he could do that someday. That appeared to be such an impact on his motivation – to get there and beyond. Scott also obtained a copy of Kevin Black’s fourth title (tournament & match). “Hunter would watch Kevin over and over to the point of wearing out the DVD.” It was clear that he looked at wrestling differently from that point forward. Hunter brought that childhood dream with him to four trips to that same grand march, a high school record of 150-4 and a Kohl Center standing ovation after earning his fourth title on Saturday evening, February 27, 2016.
Looking immediately ahead, Hunter was selected to represent team USA in the Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic (formerly known as the Dapper Dan Classic), which will be held Saturday, March 26 at University of Pittsburgh’s Fitzgerald Field House. Hunter will be in good company as he joins a list of previous (Wisconsin) team USA members – Jesse Thielke – Germantown (2011), Alex Dieringer – Port Washington (2011), Ben Sarbacker – Verona (2007), Jordan Crass – Medford (2004), Travis Shufelt – Oconto (2000), Garret Lowney – Appleton (1998), Brian Slater – New Lisbon (1996), Todd English – Onalaska (1989), Steve Hoffman – West Bend (1988), John Harms – Baraboo (1987), Joey Van Dinter – Wisconsin Dells (1983), Dennis Limmex – River Valley, Spring Green (1980), Don Meyer – Madison (1975).
This Saturday Hunter (145 lb.) will face Mike Carr. The University of Illinois commit – Carr is a two-time Pennsylvania state champion – capping off an undefeated season and a 160-15 high school career record. In the last two seasons, Carr went 87-0. Marko will not be alone; one of his coaches and two of his wrestling partners are also training for this event. Brandon Paulson is an honorary coach, Pinnacle Wrestlers Mitchell McKee (St. Michael – Albertville, MN) 138 lb. and Griffin Parriott (New Prague, MN) 152 lb. will also be competing for Team USA in this dual.
Hunter’s high school chapter will be done this weekend; however, the next chapter has yet to be written. This fall, Hunter will wrestle for the Minnesota Gophers. Ever since he was a little kid, he remembers going to Williams Arena and the Pavilion at the University of Minnesota. “These places were always absolutely packed and completely electric… from the bottom of my heart, I’ve always wanted to be a Minnesota Gopher. I wanted that… I can’t wait!”
Justin Bystrom is a independent writer/photographer covering Wisconsin and USA wrestling events and a proud member of the River Falls, Wisconsin wrestling community.
Justin’s can be found at Justin Bystrom Photography and on Twitter @Justin_Bystrom
Photo credits: Kaylen Logan and Paul Stumpf (PS Portrait)
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