Former US CSC wrestler Mike Max has died | Sports


Con Marshall

A big man with a big smile, former American wrestler from Chadron State College, Mike Max, died on June 1 in a hospital in Kearney following a short battle with leukemia. His funeral was held at the Burwell High School Gymnasium on Friday with around 700 people in attendance.

Max was born on October 20, 1961 in Cozad, where he lived until the family moved to Burwell in 1978, when he was entering his first year of high school. He was a two-time state wrestling tournament heavyweight champion and an all-state football player in his senior year for the Burwell Longhorns.

He worked on the family farm until 1984 when he and his younger brother, Darrin, enrolled at Chadron State College. Darrin joined the football team as a defensive lineman and Darold Andrist, the Eagles’ wrestling coach, persuaded Mike to join his team.

He launched his college career in spectacular fashion, pinning his six opponents while winning the heavyweight championship at the Cowboy Open tournament hosted by the University of Wyoming.

Max finished his first season in 1984-85 with a 27-5 record. Three of the losses came at the NAIA National Tournament where he won his first two games before getting injured and losing or missing three of his last four games. At the end of the season, Amateur Wrestling News selected him as the best freshman heavyweight in the country, regardless of school classification.

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The following year, Max was 31-5-2 for the Eagles, won the regional tournament heavyweight title and placed third at the national tournament, where he won six of seven games. One of his draws that season was a 1-1 with Jon Cogdill, then a freshman on the University of Wyoming team, later a three-time Western Athletic heavyweight champion. Conference and faculty member at Chadron High School for the past 25 years.

After the 1985-86 season, a limit of 275 pounds was imposed on heavyweights. When the decision was made, Max weighed around 125 pounds over the limit and was forced to sit the following season. He was determined to wrestle again, lost weight so he could compete again, and returned to action in 1987-88.

Although he had to undergo knee arthroscopy this season, he placed second at the regional tournament and finished his career with a 73-23-2 record. His 0.744 winning percentage ranks among the top 10 in the history of Chadron State.

After graduating from CSC, he and his wife Kelly, who had been a dorm principal while Mike attended CSC, moved to Ainsworth, where he taught industrial technology and coached football and wrestling for 17 years.

The couple moved to Burwell in 2007, where he was recognized as an outstanding industrial technology teacher and served as an assistant football coach and wrestling co-coach. In the past five years, the Longhorns have reached the state football playoff championship four times and have won two state wrestling championships.

Max was inducted into the Chadron State Athletic Hall of Fame in 2004 and the Nebraska Scholastic Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2006.

Survivors in addition to his wife include his brother, Darrin, who is superintendent of Burwell Schools; one sister, Deb Timm of Cozad; her stepfather, Ted DeHart; her stepmother, Sandy Carr, both of Burwell; as well as many other parents.

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Robert J. King