Iowa high school, Simpson College coach Bob Darrah passes

Bob Darrah, successful Hall of Fame wrestling coach in Iowa at three high schools and at Simpson College despite never having wrestled in high school or college, passed away Monday, Nov. 26 at his home in Indianola, Iowa. He was 89.

Bob Darrah
Robert L. Darrah was born in Chariton, Iowa, the son of Glenn and Murine Darrah. Chariton High School did not have a wrestling program, nor did Westmar College in LeMars, Iowa where Darrah attended from 1958 to 1962.

It's difficult to sum up Darrah's incredibly successful three-decade coaching career in approximately 100 words, but the Indianola (Iowa) Chamber of Commerce website did a pretty good job in April 2018:

"Coach Bob Darrah never wrestled in high school or college, but in coaching over 30 years of high school wrestling his teams won 95 percent of their matches. Coach Darrah's teams compiled a dual meet record of 340-17-2. That career winning percentage is the best for Iowa high school wrestling coaches. Few coaches in any sport can claim this level of success over three decades and at three different high schools.

"After coaching at Morning Sun, Urbandale, and Dowling high schools, Darrah was recruited to the collegiate level by the administration and boosters of Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa. At Simpson, he coached men's wrestling, and took on women's golf."

The Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame in Cresco -- which honors wrestlers, coaches and officials with ties to the sport in the state of Iowa -- described Darrah as "a self-taught, self-made, outstanding and successful wrestling coach."

Darrah started his career as a wrestling coach at Morning Sun in 1962, where, as a first-time mat mentor, led his wrestlers to a 50-3 record in five seasons, never losing a home meet. In 1967, he moved to Urbandale, where in two seasons, his wrestlers won 21, lost 2, and tied once. In 1969, Darrah arrived at Dowling Catholic High School in Des Moines, where he coached for two decades. His dual meet record at Dowling was 268 wins, 12 losses and one tie. Darrah coached 169 state qualifiers including at least 12 Iowa state champion wrestlers. His team won four state team titles and three state dual team titles.

After 30 seasons of coaching high school in Iowa, Darrah took his coaching talent to Simpson College south of Des Moines. In five seasons, he led the Simpson wrestlers to an impressive 86-25-1 overall record until his retirement. Darrah also coached women's golf at the college.

What made Darrah so successful -- and respected -- as a wrestling coach?

"Number one, he's a tremendous motivator," Ron Gray, long-time assistant and eventual replacement at Dowling, told wrestling writer Dan McCool for his 2011 book on the Iowa state wrestling tournament, "Reach for the Stars." "He'd get you to do anything. You'd run through a brick wall for him. The second thing was it was an advantage that he didn't wrestle because, as a wrestler, sometimes I think maybe we can't do this, maybe this won't work. He never had that attitude. He didn't have the limitations that being a wrestler would necessarily impose on you in your thought process."

Beyond Darrah's coaching accomplishments, his wrestling resume is impressive. Among his many honors: 1988 Amateur Wrestling High School Coach of the Year, 1978 Iowa High School Coach of the Year, 1986 Iowa High School Hall of Fame, 1989 National High School Athletic Association High School Coach of the Year, 1990 Westmar College Hall of Fame, 1991 Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame, and, in 2006, induction into the Glen BIrand Wrestling Hall of Fame of Iowa at the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Dan Gable Museum. In addition, Darrah owns the distinction of having at least two wrestling rooms named in his honor: at Dowling, and at Simpson College.

If that weren't enough, Bob Darrah shared his story in the 2017 book "Bobby D: It's Not the Destination, It's the Journey. Ready? Wrestle!" by the legendary coach.

Visitation for Robert L. Darrah will take place 4 to 8 p.m., Friday, November 30, 2018 at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, 210 R63 Hwy in Indianola. A Celebration of Life Service will be held at a later date following the wrestling season, date and time to be determined.

Memorials may be sent to Coach Bob Darrah Endowment Fund for Tuition Assistance at Dowling Catholic High School, 1400 Buffalo Road, West Des Moines, IA 50265.


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