By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Mark Reiland was the very first Iowa wrestler that I ever interviewed.
The interview took place in early 1992 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
I had been working for the Iowa City Press-Citizen for just several months when I was assigned to write an in-depth feature story on Iowa’s reigning NCAA champion at 167 pounds.
And now almost 30 years later, I still remember parts of the interview, and Reiland’s demeanor that day.
He was soft-spoken and humble, and he made it very apparent that he didn’t enjoy talking about how great he supposedly was as an NCAA champion.
He chose his words carefully, and sometimes, he didn’t even answer the question.
He wasn’t rude.
In fact, I remember him even stopping one time during the interview and saying something to the effect that it wasn’t my questions that were a problem, but rather his reluctance to gush about himself.
We grinded through the interview and about a week after the story was published, I saw Reiland running the stairs at Carver-Hawkeye Arena and we made eye contact.
He then gave me a slight nod as if to say, thanks for the story.
I smiled and we went our separate ways.
Sadly, I share this memory in the wake of the horrible news that Mark Reiland passed away on Wednesday. He was just 52 years old.
Mark Reiland loved the sport of wrestling and spent most of life either competing in or coaching the sport that he loved.
But he was different in some ways, too, than many in the wrestling community.
Compared to most of his Iowa teammates, which included twins Tom and Terry Brands, the soft-spoken Reiland was the calm in a sea of fire and rage.
He didn’t always wear his emotion on his sleeve, or sometimes, even on his face.
He just quietly went about his business with little need for attention or adulation.
That’s what I remember most about Mark Reiland after all these years.
He was successful at every level of wrestling, a two-time state champion at Eagle Grove High School, where he wrestled for his father, Marv Reiland, and a two-time All-American at Iowa where he won an individual national title in 1991 under the legendary Dan Gable.
After graduating from Iowa, Reiland made the transition from wrestler to wrestling coach.
Following a brief stint at Solon High School, Reiland spent 19 seasons as head coach at Iowa City West before retiring in 2018.
During Reiland’s tenure, West had 26 state champions, 13 runner-ups and 84 place-winners. The Trojans won two traditional team titles — in 2006 and 2007 — and five state dual crowns (2003, 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2011).
Reiland was inducted into the Glen Brand Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2010, and the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2016. His career dual meet record as a head coach was 436-108-1.
Mark Reiland was good for the sport of wrestling, and wrestling was good to him.
He touched so many lives as the West High head coach, and that’s apparent just from the reaction on social media to Reiland’s death.
Those who knew him best are devastated by his passing.
Mark Reiland in many ways was like his father, soft-spoken and motivated by the desire to help kids succeed.
Marv Reiland was hired as the West High Athletic Director in 1990, and he hired his son to be the program’s wrestling coach in 1999.
And together they helped to build a proud and successful program.
Mark watched how his father touched so many lives as a wrestling coach and mentor, and wanted to have the same impact. They both loved their wrestlers like family, because in many ways, they were family.
Like father, like son.
But now the son is gone way too soon and it hurts.
His wife Michele and their children have lost the rock in their lives, while Marv and his wife, Marlys, have lost their beloved son.
No parent should have to bury their son, but sometimes, life just isn’t fair.
But Mark Reiland also accomplished a great deal in his 52 years.
He discovered early in life, with help from his father, that he could go places in the sport of wrestling. He grew up around the sport and it allowed him to be around his father.
Those who knew Mark Reiland the best will have memories to cherish forever.
My memory is from our interview from nearly 30 years ago.
Mark Reiland made a huge impression that day without saying much.
He took the sport of wrestling very serious, but not himself.