By Tyler Ohmann
A second place finish as a team, a second place individual and an All-Tournament team member at the state meet,
it was quite a birthday present for Pierz head wrestling coach Mark Jensen.
However, it was not really a birthday present, it was more like a going-away present.
After 30 years at the helm, Jensen is calling it quits as the Pioneers wrestling coach.
Jensen is planning to retire from teaching as well, which is what influenced his decision to step down from the wrestling program.
“I think it is important to have someone in the (school) system to check on the kids, see how they are doing and make contact with them,” Jensen said. “That all goes into establishing a relationship with a student athlete, and that’s important.”
“Also, it’s a young man’s game, and I’ve certainly changed the way I’ve coached, but that went into the decision too,” Jensen added.
Jensen also said that it felt like time because he was coaching several wrestlers whom he had coached their parents as well.
“It is really special to coach some of those kids,” Jensen said. “It was quite a way to finish.”
The kids appreciate him as well.
“They are going to miss him, but I’m sure someone else will step in,” Kapsner said. “However, it will take them awhile to get to the spot where Mr. Jensen is at, because he is high on my scale.”
“Everyone respects him, and I’ve always looked up to him,” Kapsner said.
Jensen has led the Pioneers to a pair of state team titles and numerous state appearances as a team.
This wasn’t the first time that Jensen has retired as wrestling coach, however.
In 2006, Jensen retired as head coach, ceding the program to Simon Waltman, so that he could watch his daughter play basketball.
However, after a few years away, he became Waltman’s assistant and was eventually rehired to head coach in 2013 when Waltman stepped down.
He has led the Pioneers to four straight state appearances as a team since his return.
“The wrestling support in this town has been phenomenal,” Jensen said.
Jensen said that he’ll miss the wrestlers and being around them both in the classroom and on the mat.
“I’ll miss the camaraderie with the kids, establishing relationships with the kids, guiding them,” Jensen said. “Hopefully I’ve made an influence on their life.”
Kapsner certainly believes so.
“He is one of those people that when he tells you something, you just automatically do it,” Kapsner said. “Him being around makes you want to be the best that you can be.”
When school lets out in June, Jensen said it will also be a gift. As to what he’ll do.
“Anything I want,” Jensen joked. “It will be nice to not be on a time schedule, and be able to wake up whenever I want and have a cup of coffee with my wife.”