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Dave Schirack...one of a kind
"He wasn't especially athletic or skilled, but he learned the sport, fought his butt off and turned himself into a good wrestler," said former Bellmont wrestling coach A.J. Kalver, describing some traits that carried the late Dave Schirack through his life, which ended last weekend when the home town carpenter, coach, outdoorsman, dad, grandpa and friend of scores of Decatur folks passed away after suffering from an aneurysm.
Dave was a simple man, but he found ways to impact the lives of people he touched, and that was no simple task considering the numbers involved.
"I coached him as a lad, then watched him coach all those thousands of (Decatur) Bellmont wrestlers through the years," noted Kalver, referring to the work Schirack did over the decades as a freestyle coach for the youngest Decatur Wrestling Club members. He first got a taste of working with youngsters when Kalver and Coach Ken Webb started the Bellmont elementary program, sending the varsity wrestlers out as coaches.
"For years and years he helped out the club, coaching the youngest group. He was a big part of the Decatur Wrestling Club, both as a coach and an official. He refed thousands of matches over the years," stated current Bellmont coach Brent Faurote.
"He loved working with the five and six-year-olds. He always called them warriors and taught the little guys to be tough."
"Everything was for the kids," added friend and long-time wrestling co-hort Ed Shaneyfelt. "He always told the little guys to 'rip and tear flesh.' He was so knowledgeable, gave the kids what they needed to do to be successful, or to beat one opponent. All the kids respected and listened to him, even the high school kids."
"Dave would watch the opponents and had a few things to say to our kids. He paid attention to matchups we might have later on and was always ready to help," said Faurote.
"He was one of those guys who was a local businessman, volunteered a huge amount of time, then encouraged others to get involved. He was great at getting the kids to come out and coach or officiate. Besides the work here, there were 10 to 12 weekends a year he was on the road somewhere, helping out another club as a referee or a meet official. Dave was all about wrestling," said Faurote.
Dave was also about family, always supporting children Angie and Shaun and taking care of other family members. He always had dogs, usually yellow Labs, and was proud of the way the dogs responded to training.
"Dave was a story teller and we always figured about 70 percent of the story was true," said Shaneyfelt, noting that Schirack liked to spice up the tale.
There were stories about his dogs. "I think this one was true and it happened this year. He was up at his cabin in the U.P. and decided to go to the boat, but his dogs, Buckshot and Buckwheat, wouldn't let Dave get close to the docks. They wined and barked, then, in a bush area, a bear stood up and the dogs chased it away."
Several years ago, Schirack had a heart attack and lost all but about 20 percent of his heart muscle. He had several cardiac events after that, but always soldered on. Eventually, he had to leave the carpentry work to Shaun and Dan Friedt.
No doubt, Dave was a character, but he had a lot of admirable characteristics.
"Bless his heart, Dave would give you the shirt off of his back," said Mary Friedt, whose late husband, John was a friend and teammate of Schirack.
"There was a takedown tourney Saturday at Columbia City and everybody was asking about Dave after word got out. He was a at IHSAA wrestling official, and an ISWA folkstyle and freestyle official. A few years back, he was named ISWA Official of the Year (2002)," added Mary.
Over the years, Schirack spent a lot of time with the Friedts and with Helen Mankey, DWC club officials. "Even after the heart trouble, he wouldn't slow down. He was like a brother ... an annoying brother. But just a a a great guy," added Friedt.
"We watched out for him, and in the last few years we'd drive him to the state tourneys. I'd remind him when it was time to send in for his officiating license. It was like a big-sister thing," said Helen.
Dave was known to help out the local sports writer. Years ago, after my heart problems surfaced, Dave announced that he would drive me to the wrestling meets. He did that for a decade, even taking me to the state meets and letting me in on some pre-meet traditions with his Bellmont wrestling gang.
Few in Dave's wrestling family know ... that he started out as a basketball player.
"He played basketball as a freshman along with Kevin McBarnes, Louie Schultz and Mike Kable. All came out for wrestling as sophomores and had no previous experience. Those four, along with Kevin Moore and Eddy Mendez were the senior class and nucleus of that (1971-72) team, which put Bellmont back on the wrestling map," said Kalver, an assistant to Ken Webb that year. John Friedt was a junior on that team.
Bellmont won the first of 18 straight NEIC wrestling titles that year, and the first Sectional crown in school history. The Braves have now won 38 sectional titles.
"Like John Friedt, Dave was a valuable member of the Bellmont wrestling family. They contributed to a lot of successes over the years. We may never be able to replace those guys," said Kalver.
Dave was a philosopher, of sorts. "His yesses were yesses, and his nos were nos," said Shaneyfelt.
One of his favorite sayings was, "Life is good."
I'll go along with him on that. But life will be a little less joyous without my friend Dave Schirack.