It was a call from Litchfield Wrestling Club leader Bruce Johnson about a month ago when Mark Twardy found out that he was going to be inducted into the Litchfield Wrestling Hall of Fame.
“It blew my mind to be honest,” Twardy said. “It was 100 percent unexpected. It’s a true honor.”
Twardy was humble about his achievement. He never went beyond himself in his acceptance speech, instead keeping the focus of his success on the program and the people who helped him along the way.
He couldn’t quite remember when he began wrestling, but Twardy said it was the first or second grade in the Litchfield Youth Wrestling Club.
“I was horrible. I don’t even remember when I started winning.” he said.
Twardy started on junior varsity/varsity in seventh grade. By the time he was a sophomore, Twardy was well past the “horrible” stage of his youth. He qualified for the state tournament in each of his last three years of high school wrestling. He took third at state as a junior, but improved and went on to become a state champion his senior year at 112 pounds. Twardy finished his high school career as a three-time section champion while compiling a 111-16 record.
“To me, all that stuff doesn’t matter, it’s about the club,” Twardy said. “It’s more about the atmosphere and the camaraderie, especially when you’re talking about the kids. Like how they brought the kids out through the varsity, it’s about them because they’re the future. What this wrestling club does is I think that’s what they do, they do a very good job of bridging the future.”
Twardy went on to wrestle at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He only wrestled for a few seasons there before having to quit due to injuries in his back and his knees.
Twardy served a tour in Iraq from 2005 to 2007 with the Army. After he returned, he decided to give back and coach for the town he was living in, Coon Rapids. He coached there for two years and also coached Greco Roman and freestyle in the summers. He preferred being on the mat to being on the sidelines, but his time as a wrestler taught him a lot that he used as a coach.
“Never quit, never accept defeat,” Twardy said. “Rely on the people to your left and right and make sure you do the same. Wrestling taught me these things even though the Army does the same. Surround yourself with outstanding people and put your best effort in and who knows what will happen.”
Twardy said wrestling gave him life skills that carried him through good and bad times.
“I just really ultimately think that this sport — and I’ve done other sports — but this sport, like, really, really taught me about life,” Twardy said. “Everything that has happened in my wrestling career, the ups and downs, are the same things that I’m learning today. It’s taught me how to deal with situations in a positive way.”