McCombs Middle School is known as the Eagles, and a just-announced honor for one of their should have them flying a little higher. Michael Tarin, a history teacher at McCombs, is being name the Class 3A Junior High Coach of the Year by the Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association. He coaches the middle schools that feed into Lincoln High School: Brody, McCombs and Weeks.
Tarin has spent the past nine years coaching wrestling. During that time he has touched the lives of hundreds of student-athletes. Take, for example, Leo Blawou. Shortly after immigrating to the United States, Blawou’s father was killed in a car accident. Wrestling became an important part of his life as a young student, and he went on to qualify for the state tournament twice in high school, including an 8th place finish in 2020. Today Blawou wrestles for Central College.
“He’s a great guy, I was lucky to start wrestling with him,” said Blawou. “He always seemed to have things in order and no matter what was going on with him outside of wrestling he kept the same energy. He cared about his athletes in and out of the sports and made sure they had what they needed to participate. He did all he could to get us to practice and made sure we didn’t quit on it.”
Another top high school wrestler influenced by Tarin is Lincoln senior Mickey Griffith. A state champion in 2020 and runner-up in 2021, Griffith signed a letter of intent to wrestle for the University of Iowa, a perennial powerhouse in the sport.
“Coach Tarin means a lot to this program. He helps a lot of kids, including myself, achieve their goals and better themselves in life,” recalls Griffith. “He never turns down a kid who shows up and wants to be better in wrestling, or in life.”
Dustin Roland has coached wrestling at Lincoln and has relied on Tarin for his support in developing younger and newer athletes to the sport and building a strong program on Des Moines’ south side.
“Coach Tarin has played a selfless role in the DM Lincoln program over the last decade. Any success in our program is a direct result of the dedication and commitment he has shown to our program,” said Roland, who also nominated Tarin for the award. “He has relentlessly been there to support kids over the years. Coach Tarin’s biggest impact on our program is finding a core group of kids who want to continue wrestling through the AAU season. He not only finds workouts and competitions for those kids he also finds ways to pay and provide transportation for them to be able to compete. Without his guidance and support we would have no middle school kids hanging around long enough to compete at AAU districts and state.”
Respect for Tarin and his work extends to both the classroom as well as the wrestling mat.
“Whether it’s in the classroom or on the wrestling mat, Mr. Tarin exemplifies everything you want in an educator,” noted Jason Snow, principal at McCombs Middle School. “He is always focused on student success and is willing to put in the work to help each student become the best version of themselves. We’re lucky to have him here at McCombs and are proud of his contributions to our community on the South side.”
Tarin is humbled by the recognition and adds that his work is made possible thanks to the help and support he receives from other coaches.
“I was very surprised and honored to receive this award. The DMPS middle school wrestling program started 9 years ago – the same year that Coach Roland was hired as the head wrestling coach for Lincoln High School. Coach Roland took a chance on me that year by asking me to lead the middle school team – sharing with me his vision and its’ importance to feeding into the high school program,” said Tarin. “Together, and with all of the other coaches, we have created a program that introduces numerous students to the sport of wrestling every year. Without the guidance and mentorship of all the coaches, I would not be the coach I am today who has received this award.”
Coach Tarin will be recognized at the Iowa State Wrestling Championship, held February 17-19 at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.