Rial hired as Dodger wrestling assistant
Two-time state champ will join Thompson’s staff at Fort Dodge
Some of Mark Rial’s favorite memories date back to his time as a Fort Dodge Dodger athlete.
High school is also when Rial began to learn a lot about himself as a wrestler and, more importantly, a person.
The lessons from Rial’s formative years as a competitor will now be the main focus of the next chapter in his coaching career, as the two-time Iowa high school state champion has accepted an assistant position on Bobby Thompson’s staff at FDSH.
“It’s going to be a refreshing change for me,” said the 43-year-old Rial, who was officially hired earlier this week. “I have a passion for the sport and coaching, and there’s something about being a Dodger…it’s where I figured out how to do things the right way. How to grow and become a man. What to take from your mentors, but also, how to get things done on your own.
“I’m going to be honest: there aren’t too many high school programs I’d be interested in joining. But for obvious reasons, I’m honored to be a part of this one. I just hope I’m able to contribute to it in my own way and help the kids in the program develop both (on and off the mat) the way I was able to as a competitor.”
The four-time state qualifier became a household name in the mid-1990s, capturing a 3A title as a sophomore at 103 pounds in 1994 and again during his senior campaign at 125. He was a 119-pound runner-up to future Iowa Hawkeye Eric Juergens as a junior in 1995.
Rial’s career record of 131-8 as a prep still stands among the Top-10 in Dodger history for both overall victories and win percentage. He was named the school’s Henry W. Schultz Award winner as FDSH’s top male senior athlete in 1996.
At the University of Northern Iowa, Rial’s success continued. The three-time Panther letterwinner reached the NCAA national tournament as a senior captain in 2001.
Rial then joined the USA Wrestling program and was an active competitor through 2008, when he won a national championship. Rial became a five-time National Greco Roman All-American and a three-time University Nationals All-American. He earned a bronze medal at the Pytlasinski Tournament in Poland in 2007.
Rial was a U.S. Olympic Trials participant in 2004 and 2008. He served as training partner for Jake Deitchler at 145.5 pounds during the 2008 Olympics.
“Mark brings such a wide range of experiences to the table,” said Thompson, who has been at the helm since 2005. “This is a huge addition for us. He’s traveled not only the country, but the world as a part of this sport. He’s been successful at every stop, and he’s grown so much because of it.
“That perspective and knowledge will be invaluable not just for the kids, but myself and the other coaches. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Mark, most notably because I know what it means to him, (his wife) Lindsey and their family to be Dodgers. It’s exactly what you want to see if you’re a Fort Dodge wrestling supporter.”
Rial’s coaching career began at Iowa Central Community College in 2010 after a stint as UNI’s strength and conditioning coach for wrestling. He served as an assistant with the Tritons through 2017.
The next season, Rial became head coach at Buena Vista University. He held the position for three years.
“I learned a lot about myself as a coach and as a person during my time (at BVU),” Rial said. “You think you know what it’s going to be like, but until you go through it, you really don’t. It was great, and I made a lot of memories there. But family comes first, and ultimately, we wanted to stay in Fort Dodge (where the Rial family has lived for the last 11 years). The commute (to Storm Lake) was just too much (Mark and Lindsey have two sons: Trace and Parker). So ultimately, it just wasn’t in the cards for me (to commit to BVU moving forward).”
Rial is eager to work alongside Thompson and the other Dodger coaches beginning next month.
“I’ll just keep learning and trying to better myself as a coach and a person,” Rial said. “I have a great relationship with Coach Thompson. We’ve known each other for a long time. He’s emphasized the value of family and loyalty in the Dodger community, which is something that speaks to me. He’s done a heck of a job, not only carrying on the tradition, but experiencing the success they have in recent years. I’m excited to get going.”
Mark is the son of Fort Dodge’s Mike and Kris Rial.