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Many strategies in successful teamwork are universal, so a coach’s words of wisdom often hold meaning across sports, groups or organizations. Such was the case when Maryville’s wrestling coach, Mike Denney, recently addressed Echo Battery, Battalion Landing Team 2/6, of the U.S. Marine Corps. Denney shared his knowledge with the Marines, but he gained valuable inspiration, as well.
“I spent three days with the Marines, and really felt a connection,” Denney says. “It was a great experience. I love tradition, history and what they stand for. They use symbols and mottos, and our Maryville wrestlers do, too. They’re building an elite, fighting group, and we’re building a competitive group. And, you know, their ages are the ages of our guys.”
Denney was invited to provide the distinguished Guest of Honor remarks for the battalion’s annual Battery Ball held at Camp Lejeune in N.C., in August. It was anticipated the Marines would deploy sometime this fall, and he meant to send them off with full hearts and clear reminders of their training and discipline.
In the time he spent with the group, Denney watched them train, toured their facilities, and heavy equipment, met with officers and sat in on briefings. “I wanted to learn as much as possible,” he says.
The Marines reached out to Denney on the recommendation of First Lt. Matt G. Ford, the battalion’s executive officer. A former wrestler, Ford first met Denney when the coach was asked to work with his Nebraska national high school team in preparation for a tournament. The two forged a strong connection, and have kept in touch ever since.
“I got goose bumps looking at their team unity,” Denney says of his visit. “The Marines are noted for that. They’re a band of brothers—they have to be. Their lives depend on it. So, you can see why I connected with them. How do you create that team power? They’re striving for it just like we are.”
Following his address, Denney was presented with a plaque that reads, “Thank you for your words of wisdom and motivation.” The Marines were so appreciative of his coaching strategies, they also adopted the Saints wrestling team’s battle cry: “OOOSSSS!”
“It was a privilege, pleasure and honor to be part of it. I felt their unity, their team power—their core,” Denney says. “I’m called to do what I’m doing; they’re called, too. I told them, ‘You’re our world team. You’re after my heart.’”