In 40 years at the helm of Wheaton's wrestling program, Dave Moquin has accumulated too many memories to pick favorites, he says. So as he contemplates the end of his career after this weekend's Maryland state meet, the white-haired coach begins rolling out the stories, one after another.
In his first year, he bailed 20 of his wrestlers out of jail on a Sunday after they were caught breaking into the high school to practice for the following week's county tournament.
He had one wrestler who couldn't slow himself down after a sprint and put his arm through a glass window.
Another wrestler, a little on the competitive side, almost dived headfirst into a wall trying to beat a teammate during sprints.
Moquin fondly remembers having to break up brawls between sparring teammates every couple of weeks in his early years. Those don't happen anymore, he said, sounding somewhat disappointed.
There is one reason why Moquin has stayed in the field so long. It's not because of winning or losing. He doesn't know his all-time record, or even the Knights' record this season. Moquin coaches to see wrestlers develop into tough men. His tales are of students who had no business wrestling and maybe won half their matches by the time they were seniors. His favorite part of the sport is character-building.
"A lot of kids start off immature and don't have a lot of character at that time," Moquin said. "They develop this ethic where they know if they're going to be top dog they really have to work for it. That's what I don't see quite as much of anymore. I used to see a lot of it."
Moquin, 66, suffers from what he calls age discrimination. In recent years, he has had trouble connecting with his wrestlers, has seen fewer students trying out and at times has struggled to get them to follow his rules. Moquin says the only things that have changed him are knee and back surgeries. It's the kids who have changed. And that is why this year may be Moquin's last.
David Foreman, a senior who wrestles at 171 pounds, said Moquin is like a grandfather to the wrestlers. He said assistant coach Nick Arnone, whom Moquin is grooming to take over the team, jokes around with the wrestlers while Moquin sets them straight, which rubs some the wrong way.
"He runs the old-school type of practice, but a lot of guys have said they've learned more," Foreman said. "He's more like the classroom kind of style. We can't joke and make vulgar comments with an older guy there. He says, 'Gentlemen, watch your mouth.' You can't really be a kid. He makes sure you're an adult."
Moquin has become closer with Foreman, Wheaton's top wrestler this season. They will be vying for a title this weekend at the Maryland state championships at Cole Field House, which begin with preliminary matches Friday afternoon. Their relationship improved this year when Foreman dedicated himself to raising his grades. Again, old school.
Many of Moquin's former wrestlers keep in touch. Jim Walters, who was on Moquin's first team in 1967, remembers the first time he realized he knew more about the sport than his coach. Walters told Moquin he was going to wrestle at 112 pounds after weighing in 20 pounds more than that. Moquin grew very concerned and wanted Walters to see a doctor.
"I liked him a lot right then, from the beginning," Walters said. "He seemed to have integrity. He wanted to learn and to be a good coach. He has really taken these kids, given them a sport, and a lot of kids who weren't athletic or anything, he bettered them."
He has not toiled in anonymity. In 2005, he was inducted to the National Wrestling Hall of Fame as a coach. Two years earlier, he went into the Maryland Wrestling Hall of Fame.
The ceremony for the national induction was held at a hotel in Annapolis and required a tuxedo. The Maryland induction was held just before the state tournament finals, and he celebrated at the Wheaton gym with a cake and many of his wrestlers -- current and former -- in attendance.
"It's not at all as fancy as the National Hall of Fame induction, yet to me, it was more meaningful," Moquin said. "That was one of the highlights."