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Beloved former coach Mike Olson loses battle with cancer

07/12/13
Coach Mike Olson 1937-2013
Mike "Ole" Olson, who coached seven sports at Monmouth College before his retirement in 2005, died at his home in Monmouth July 12 at the age of 76 after a long battle with cancer.

Olson, widely known as "Coach Ole," began his Monmouth career in 1990 as an assistant football coach and head wrestling coach. Two wrestlers – John Chapman in 1991 and Scott Bayer in 1998 – earned All-American honors under his tutelage. In 1997, Olson implemented his "Operation Pin and Win" strategy, earning the Fighting Scots their only team conference title in the history of the wrestling program.

Olson also broke new ground in women's sports at Monmouth, serving as the first coach of the women's golf program when the college added that sport in 1999, guiding the team to a third place finish at the conference tournament. The following spring, Olson took the reins of the men's program for one season. He later assisted both men's and women's soccer programs.

In 2001, Olson again answered the call, serving as the head softball coach for a team that set numerous team records while qualifying for the four-team Midwest Conference Tournament. The squad reeled off a team-record 10-game home win streak en route to compiling a then-school record 21 wins and clubbing 14 home runs, the record at the time. Olson's Scots also set the new standards with a .468 team batting average and 173 RBIs.

Away from the field, the community-minded Olson served the college as the Director of Wellness and was instrumental in beginning the Red Cross Blood Drop Challenge with Knox College in an effort to raise blood donations for the local Red Cross Chapter.

During his 41-year coaching career that spanned six institutions from the Midwest to the East Coast, Olson produced 61 All-Americans and eight national champions. His ability on the mats resulted in his induction into four Halls of Fame. His first came in 1984 when he was inducted into the NAIA Wrestling Coaches Hall of Fame. Induction into the Halls at UNC-Pembroke, Jamestown and Upper Iowa followed.
 
Olson twice served as the Director of the NCAA Division III Great Lakes Wrestling Tournament.
 
A native of Minnesota, he graduated from Coe College in 1959 and earned his master's degree in education from Wayne State University in 1964. Survivors include his wife, Barbara, two daughters and two sons.

In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that memorials be made to the athletic department of the college of the donor's choice. A Celebration of Life will be held Friday, July 19 from 1 to 3 p.m. at the family home located at 910 East Euclid Avenue, Monmouth. Cremation rites have been accorded.

Hoover-Hall Memorial Chapel is handling the arraignments. On-line condolences may be left at www.hooverhall.com.