From humble beginnings …
In Kevin Morin's first season as the head wrestling coach at the Milwaukee School of Engineering 20 years ago, there were only four men on the team, far short of filling out a 10-man lineup.
"In those first years, we obviously had no dual victories," Morin recalled. "Winning duals was not even on our radar screen. Getting guys to fill the roster was job number one."
The West Allis resident and Greenfield High School graduate worked tirelessly to build up the program, and his efforts gradually yielded results, as MSOE recorded its first victory under his guidance in the 1994-95 season.
The progress continued from there, and this season, Morin notched his 100th dual triumph at the school.
That was a big moment for the 56-year-old Morin, whose wrestling career began as a competitor at Greenfield High School and Marquette University.
"That was a special milestone to hit," he said.
Started as interim coach
A 100th victory was merely a far-off dream when Morin first accepted the head coaching job during the 1993-94 season, which was only the third year of existence for the program.
The head coach had resigned in the middle of the season and the MSOE administration asked Morin, who was an admissions counselor at the school, if he was interested in the job.
Morin said he would take over the spot for the remainder of that season and help the school hire a new coach for the following year.
In that half-season, though, Morin found that he really enjoyed coaching, and he was happy to drop the interim label.
His first goal was producing a full 10-man team.
"We did plenty of recruiting," he said. "We had to get out the word that MSOE had a wrestling team. I would talk with high school coaches and work at some clinics, and people said, 'MSOE has a wrestling team? I didn't know that.'"
That initial dual victory, in his first full season, was not exactly the stuff of memories.
"It was an ugly win," he recalled. "There were six forfeits between the two of us, and only four matches were wrestled. We went 3-1."
Gradually, things got better.
The team went from four to six to eight to 10 wrestlers over the next few seasons, but even at 10, the Raiders did not have a full lineup, because they still could not fill every weight class.
Finally, in 1997-98, MSOE boasted 15 wrestlers and claimed its first conference championship, winning the six-team Lake Michigan Conference.
That was the first of six conference crowns for Morin's teams, with the others all coming since the year 2000. This past season, MSOE wound up third in the Northern Conference, which was won by Concordia University of Wisconsin.
Considering his family background, Morin's success in coaching wrestling was probably just a matter of time.
The sport runs deeply in his family, as his oldest brother Keith coached at Greenfield for many years before his retirement, and younger brother Kent is currently directing the Wauwatosa combined team, which claimed Woodland Conference dual and tournament championships this season.
Kevin, along with brothers Keith, Kent and Ken (who does not coach), all competed in wrestling for Greenfield High School.
Kevin started wrestling just for fun with his brothers when he was in third grade and Keith was a freshman at Greenfield.
"He would go to practice and would learn moves," Kevin recalled. "He would come home and want to try them out on us. We would wrestle on the floor, so we never had mat burns, but rather rug burns. It was fun, though, and I felt attracted to the sport."
Since he was rather short at that point, Kevin knew he probably had no future in football or similar sports, so he stuck with wrestling.
"I liked the physical nature of it," he said. "I also appreciate the one-on-one aspect. When you step out on that mat, it is all about you. It is an individual sport built on a team philosophy."
Brother inspired him
When he was in sixth grade, he practiced with the seventh and eighth-grade team at Greenfield Middle School - with Keith's help.
Keith happened to be one of the coaches on that team and asked him to join.
"He said, 'I can get you on the team,' and he helped in another way," Kevin said. "I had an afternoon paper route, and Keith would drive me around so we could finish in 30 minutes and then get to practice at 4 p.m. Keith was instrumental in building my interest in wrestling."
Keith's help paid big dividends, as Kevin later became a standout at the high school level. As a senior, he finished second at state at 132 pounds, back when the tournament was just one division.
"I lost 3-2 in the final," he said, "and I had to think about that one for a while. When it's that close, you always think maybe you could have done something else to win."
After graduating in 1974, Kevin went on to Marquette, where he twice won the 134-pound division at the National Catholic Tournament.
He left MU in 1978 with a degree in business and joined the MSOE staff. About 15 years after that, he launched his coaching career.
Brother Keith, who helped him along the way, knows why he has been such a successful coach.
"He approaches coaching the same way he did competing," Keith said. "He always gives 100 percent. He puts his entire being into it. There is no halfway; he goes all the way.
"He did the same thing when he wrestled, and that's why he had the success he had. It's in his blood."
Not surprisingly, Kevin continues to enjoy coaching.
"I like the competition and I like the kind of true student-athlete we have at MSOE," he said. "The graduation rate for seniors in wrestling is 100 percent."
In fact, MSOE received awards in 2002-05 for having the highest grade-point average in the nation for Division III wrestling teams - and won conference crowns in three of those years.
The continuing success in both academics and athletics for Morin's MSOE teams is certainly remarkable, given the program's simple and humble beginnings.
THE MORIN FILE
WHO: Kevin Morin
WHAT:West Allis resident, Greenfield High School grad and head wrestling coach at Milwaukee School of Engineering who recently won his 100th dual meet
CONFERENCE TITLES: Morin's teams captured conference crowns in 2000-01, 2001-02, 2003-04, 2004-05 and 2011-12
OTHER HIGHLIGHTS: Winning a dual at nationally-ranked UW-Oshkosh; having seven wrestlers compete nationally, with two earning All-American honors
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