When Mike Marino retired after 35 years with Trinity High School's wrestling program, he hoped the school board would pick a young coach who is familiar with the great tradition the Hillers have had over the years.
Marino couldn't have been happier with the district's choice. Mark Powell, a 2004 Trinity graduate and former Hillers wrestler, was hired in August.
"It's my dream job, to come back and teach and coach at my alma mater," said Powell, who compiled an impressive 132-30 record as a four-year starter for the Hillers.
Powell was a three-time PIAA qualifier, two-time WPIAL runner-up and a Powerade Tournament champion while wrestling at Trinity. He ranks second on the school's all-time wins list.
"Donnie Jones kept me from winning a WPIAL title," said Powell, referring to a three-time WPIAL and two-time PIAA champion from Greensburg Salem. "He was arguably the best wrestler in the state at the time, and he was in my weight class."
Powell continued his wrestling career at Purdue University, but injuries kept him from reaching his potential. He eventually transferred to Pitt to complete his athletic and academic career.
"After graduating from Pitt, I hooked on as an assistant coach at [Washington & Jefferson College] under [former coach] Jay Robison," Powell said. "I learned a lot in my one year with Jay."
Last year, Powell took a teaching job at West Greene and served as an assistant to Pioneers coach Curt Hughes.
"I enjoyed my year at West Greene and learned a lot about high school coaching from Curt," said Powell.
"Being a Trinity grad and living in the area, I never took my eye off the program. I kept in touch with Mike Marino, and I saw their wrestlers at the county tournament. When Mike told me he was retiring, I jumped at the opportunity to apply at Trinity."
Powell, who was also hired as a 10th-grade science teacher, realizes his ties to Trinity played a big part in his hiring.
"I'm sure that being born and raised in this area and graduating from Trinity played a big part in my hiring," Powell said. "I'm sure my academic background also helped."
Powell has the task of rebuilding a program that has fallen on hard times in recent years.
"Trinity's wrestling program has always had high standards," Powell said. "Year in and year out, they reached those standards. But the numbers have dropped off since I wrestled here. We used to have 30 kids on the team. You've got to get the kids out and keep them out."
Powell wants to build a program that can compete with neighboring arch-rival Canon-McMillan, the WPIAL and PIAA team champion.
"Canon-McMillan has set the bar pretty high," Powell said. "We want to get to that level. In three years, I want to be competing for the WPIAL title."