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Aurora -- Mike DeMay never dreamed he'd be on the verge of his 300th victory as a wrestling coach.
DeMay, an assistant wrestling coach at Harmon School, has been involved in coaching ever since "the day Dick Bliss talked to me in September of 1979."
During DeMay's first two years with Aurora schools, he was Bliss' varsity assistant coach for the Aurora High School wrestling squad.
"I was very fortunate to have Coach Bliss take a chance on me," said DeMay, who is a physical education teacher at Leighton School and the high school. "I learned so much from him. He taught me the 'Aurora way' right from the get-go. His discussions on how, why and when to use certain specific moves blew me away. He taught me to love the sport."
Since then, DeMay has been an assistant coach at Harmon -- for 22 years working with head coach Ron Hegedish and the last nine years working with head coach Paul Frankmann.
"Being lucky enough to work with great men like Ron and Paul for so long is amazing," DeMay said.
Now, with 299 Harmon dual meet victories, DeMay could earn his 300th win Jan. 10 when Harmon hosts Kenston and West Geauga at 4 p.m. in Harmon's gymnasium.
"Not everyone has the good fortune of doing something they love for such a long, long period of time," said DeMay, a man who seems to gain the respect of everyone who comes in contact with him.
Bliss called DeMay "a Cadillac in a world of Yugos."
"Mike is good for kids," Bliss said. "He has always been a very positive solid example of a responsible, caring and dedicated individual.
"He has influenced many, many young men through his involvement in wrestling, and I doubt if any of them could come away without being a better person because of it."
"MIKE HAS been a role model and inspiration to generations of Harmon wrestlers," Harmon Principal Mark Abramovich said. "Our wrestlers leave Harmon as better people because they've had the extra time with Mike and have been touched by his character of caring and sportsmanship."
Frankmann said DeMay "has the ability to make the sport fit every kid on the team. He bandages, wraps, ices, stops bleeding, encourages, fixes and attends to every individual need. Whatever it takes to get a wrestler to step out onto the mat with confidence, Mike provides that. He teaches sportsmanship by example, keeping cool and keeping the kids in perspective."
Frankmann said DeMay builds up wrestlers before tough matches and congratulates them afterward, win or lose.
"Lose?" Frankmann said. "That's just a learning opportunity, not something to get upset about."
"Mike always smiles, shares stories, and makes us laugh and feel good about ourselves, each other and what we're doing," Frankmann said. "Mike is a coach of coaches. He is a great person that everyone -- students, parents, referees and fellow coaches -- want to be around."
Not surprisingly, DeMay said what he enjoys the most about being a wrestling coach is working with young people.
"They have their ups and downs just like all of us," DeMay said. "Their success is not always measured in victories. It is the process of growing as wrestlers and bonding to the team.
"We want our wrestlers to be good people with strong character, have pride in being a Harmon student athlete and proud members of the Harmon wrestling program. We teach them to respect all."
DeMay said in recent years he has begun coaching the sons of some of his former wrestlers.
"THE WRESTLING families are great, and we have so much support for the kids from our wrestling parents," he said. "We also have great administrators at Harmon. They understand the importance of sports and the successful teamwork and character building they promote."
DeMay wrestled at 138, 145 and 155 pounds for Mentor High School, which took third place in the state in 1973. DeMay referred to himself as an "average" wrestler on that team.
"I wish I could have wrestled at Aurora High School in my day," DeMay added. "I loved how Coach Bliss had a nickname for all of our wrestlers."
After that, DeMay attended Lakeland Community College, where he wrestled for year and played baseball for two years before transferring to Kent State University to obtain a degree in education.
DeMay is in his 34th year of teaching physical education. He has worked at Miller, Craddock, Leighton and Harmon schools, plus the high school. This school year, he teaches grades 3 to 5 at Leighton and grade 9 at the high school.
"I'm thrilled for Mike to reach this coaching milestone," Frankmann said. "I hope Mike will stick around for 400 victories. He has the heart, soul and energy to keep going indefinitely. We've talked about the future, and I've let him know that I don't ever want to see him leave his shoes and headgear in the middle of a mat and walk away. That would be a very sad day."
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