Newspapers across the country have been forced to downsize staffs and find new avenues of relevance in order to remain afloat financially. Unfortunately, staff downsizing has led to the dismissal of one of the state’s top wrestling writers, Dan McCool, who was one of 36 employees laid off in the latest round of cuts by Gannett Co. at the Des Moines Register.
McCool was the cornerstone of wrestling coverage for probably about three decades. Every coach, wrestler, manager, parent or sibling associated with the sport knew McCool. He captured the respect of those in the wrestling community. McCool had a knack of finding good stories and blending it with a tremendous knowledge of the action on the mat.
I remember as a youngster, while my older brother, Larry, wrestled for Cedar Rapids Regis, knowing of Dan McCool. When I wrestled in high school and college, I certainly kept up with coverage in the Register and McCool’s byline. It isn’t surprising that when I became a sportswriter with the focus on covering wrestling that I wanted to be like McCool. I wanted to command the respect that he did and have wrestlers from decades past still have an affection for me as they moved on to coaching and different endeavors. I would think, hope actually, that McCool was one of the standards wrestling writers strived to emulate when they started. I did.
Personally, we weren’t pals who went out for pizza and beer. We were acquaintances. We talked occasionally. Exchanged a couple emails. After all, we were covering the same sport for rival (I use that loosely really) newspapers. I still remember him including my family and I in his coverage of the 2007 state meet when I had to leave during a session when our second daughter was born. I also recall an email from him saying congratulations and “what a weak-ass excuse to get out of being snowbound in Des Moines.”
McCool didn’t waste words, which is similar to his writing. He could be gruff and short. His exterior said it all from the shaggy hair tucked under a ball cap and thick mustache to his signature shirt and jeans. The only thing bigger than his physical stature was his stature in the wrestling community from West Lyon to Keokuk and Glenwood to Decorah, hitting all points in between.
McCool had a passion for wrestling and it was evident in every story he wrote about it. As many grew frustrated by the Register’s wrestling coverage it wasn’t McCool’s choice. He probably was just as frustrated as anyone, especially since he covered both high school and all levels of college wrestling. Few could match his knowledge of the sport and translate it to entertaining articles for the casual sports fan.
Wrestling coverage suffered a blow with McCool’s departure. I’m sure he’ll be involved still, but it won’t be the same when it comes to spotlighting the state’s No. 1 sport.
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