South High Wrestling Coach Honored
April 28, 2009 12:00 AM
The Illinois Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association (IWCOA) held its 39th Annual Hall of Fame Banquet on Saturday, April 18, 2009 at Park Place in Countryside, Illinois. At the banquet, the IWCOA honored eight individuals with its prestigious “Lifetime Achievement Award.” One of the recipients was South High coach, Larry Gassen.
Larry Gassen’s high school years were spent at Downers Grove Community High School where he limited his athletic participation to the sport of football. Following his graduation from Downers Grove in 1959, Larry attended Illinois State University where he participated in the football program. In an era when weight training was virtually unknown, Larry helped to develop both an in-season and out-of-season weight training program. Larry graduated from ISU in 1964 having earned three varsity letters for his participation in the Redbird football program.
Larry’s first teaching and coaching position was at Crete-Monee during the 1965-66 school year. Ironically, Crete-Monee had recently created a wrestling program and Larry signed-on as one of the assistant coaches. Following a two-year stint at Crete-Monee, Larry moved back home and took on the responsibilities of an assistant wrestling coach at the recently opened Downers Grove South High School. It was during this time that Larry truly became a student of the sport. He spared little energy in getting a firmer grasp on both the mechanics as well as the psychology of the sport. After serving six seasons as an assistant, Larry took control of the Mustang program and began to implement the various strategies that he had developed.
Larry guided the DGS Mustang program (which became known for its highly disciplined and fundamental approach) from 1974 through 1986 winning 162 dual meets and IHSA District (Regional) Titles in 1979 and once again in 1982. Six individuals coached by Larry placed at State during this period, including the Mustang’s first-ever State Wrestling champion, Bob Gassman. In 1987 Larry relinquished the Head position and for the next nine seasons worked as an assistant in the program. At the end of the 1997-1998 school year Larry retired from the classroom, but continued to serve the Mustang program for an additional year. He later served as an unpaid volunteer coach at his alma mater from 1999 through 2002 only to return to the familiar environment of the Mustang program at the beginning of the 2002-2003 season. He has served Downers Grove South as an unpaid volunteer assistant to this present day.
Outside the wrestling room Larry continued to support and serve the sport of wrestling. He has served on the IWCOA Executive Board since 1984. He served as Treasurer of the IWCOA for 12 years. For twelve years Larry has volunteered his time helping to run the IHSA State Dual Meet Tournament. For seven years Larry has worked the IHSA State Individual Finals – the last three as the Head Bench Official and Weigh-master. It was under Larry’s guidance that the weigh-in procedures were streamlined and brought into compliance with the newly instituted National Federation guidelines.
In 2007 Larry was honored with the Lifetime Service to wrestling by the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum.