Bay Area coaching great Mark Halvorson passes away

Mark Halvorson coaching at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

Very sad news for CA wrestling as Mark Halvorson passed away on the morning of February 15. He was 57.

Mark was the head coach of De La Salle High School (Concord, CA) and one of the most respected and highly decorated coaches in the US, having reached the pinnacle of his profession at the World Championships and Olympic Games.

His De La Salle program was a Bay Area dynasty, having won 11 of the past 12 North Coast Section team titles and the same number of team dual titles. Mark’s teams have recorded the nine highest team scores in NCS history (setting the all-time mark of 339.5 in 2016), all accomplished within the last 11 seasons. Since 2009, he coached 90 state qualifiers and 23 medalists, including 2 state champions and four other state finalists. Mark’s teams secured six top 10 finishes at state, including 4th place in both 2011 and 2012. In all, with his coaching career beginning in the late 1990s after graduating from San Francisco State University (1998), Mark coached 33 state medalists and over 120 state qualifiers.

As great as his HS coaching career was, Mark’s Greco-Roman credentials stands among the nation’s elite. Since 1998, he was the head coach of the renowned Community Youth Center (CYC) program, compiling well over 200 individual, age-group state titles and cementing Concord as one of the nation’s premier locales for Greco-Roman talent. For two decades, Mark hosted the acclaimed Concord Junior Greco-Roman World Duals, which drew competitors from around the globe. At the state-level, he also led the California Greco-Roman team from 1996 to 2008, working with numerous national champions and All-Americans.

Mark was selected for coaching roles across all age groups for world-level events – cadet, junior, university and U23. His passport pages were quite full, serving as a coach on World Teams at multiple Junior and Cadet World Championships held in Estonia, Georgia, Brazil, Mexico, Bulgaria, Azerbajian, and Thailand, among others. Since 2000, Mark also served similar positions for the University World Team and Youth Olympic Games.

Mark’s well-deserved ascent culminated in coaching roles at the senior level – he served as a coach on Senior World Greco-Roman teams for World Championships held in 2013 (Hungary), 2014 (Uzbekistan), 2015 (Las Vegas), and 2017 (Paris). He reached the coaching mountain-top in 2016, selected as one of four Greco-Roman coaches joining the US Olympic wrestling team in Rio. Mark was also the personal coach for 4-time US World Team member and Olympian Robby Smith, who he’s known and coached since childhood.

But just as remarkable as Mark was on the sidelines, his impact off the mat was just as great. A true measure of a man is not just a long list of his accomplishments but more importantly, how he will be remembered by others. Mark was a “Scientist” to the upper echelon of USA Wrestling and international competition, a “Coach” and “Father Figure” to countless kids, a worthy “Rival” to CA’s best high schools, a “Friend” to all those involved in the CA/national wrestling community, and an “Ambassador” around the world for the sport he loved.

I can’t say I knew him well, and that’s my regret. Our interactions were brief and limited to chats about DLS line-ups and rankings. But Mark was always courteous and gracious with his time. And what was abundantly clear was how much his coaching peers respected him and how much his wrestlers loved him. It’s been a sad couple of days since Mark’s passing. But just as his reputation as a coaching savant preceded him, may the many fond memories of Mark Halvorson long endure.