Joined: 28 Nov 2005
|Posted: Fri Jan 16, 2009 9:49 am Post subject: Coach Bowman Passes Away
|Andy Harner submitted the following that will be of interest to many:
"Randy Bowman was at MSHS for the ’68 – ’70 football seasons where he was the head football coach. He was also the boy’s track coach, AD, driver’s ed instructor and boy’s PE teacher so over half the school had him for a teacher in one way or another."
Link to obituary:
Another article from The Pantagraph:
Bowman made LeRoy excel on mat and off
Thursday, January 15, 2009 8:49 PM CST
By Randy Sharer
LEROY -- What folks in this tightly knit community of 3,500 will most remember about Randy Bowman is not that he won over 82 percent of his matches as a wrestling coach.
Bowman, who died at age 72 on Tuesday, will be remembered much more for his willingness to be a father figure for those who needed help to get through LeRoy High School.
“He had a tough love approach,” said former Panther wrestler John Kennedy. “He was really a big teddy bear. He could be pretty rough when he needed to be.”
“He would do anything for you if it was in your best interest,” added Jim Conn, who also wrestled for Bowman. “If you needed a shove in the right direction, he could do that, too.”
Former LeRoy football coach Jim Zeleznik credits Bowman for shaping his coaching philosophy.
“More important than what he did in wrestling is what he did for a large number of kids in the school district,” Zeleznik said. “If he hadn’t done that, that particular individual might not have graduated from high school.
“You can’t even begin to measure what he did for so many kids in this community.”
Normal West assistant football coach Duane Thoennes, who wrestled and played football for Bowman, remembers his mentor as a sounding board for those needing advice.
“If you needed anything, you could go in and he’d listen for two hours,” Thoennes said. “He’d let you do the talking. He’d dwell on that and give you his opinion.”
Thoennes remembers first meeting Bowman as a fifth grader at a wrestling clinic.
“At first, I was terrified,” Thoennes said. “He looked like a cross between a bulldog and a drill sergeant. He had that flat top and gruff voice.”
Bowman believed “a coach can coach no what the sport is because you are coaching people,” Thoennes said.
“When I wrestled, I didn’t win a lot of matches, but he treated me and everybody exactly the same.”
Bowman treated all students that way.
“He was everybody’s coach,” said Conn, who remembers Bowman saying some kids needed the discipline of wrestling more than wrestling needed them.
“He might never get a great wrestler out of the deal, but he was going to help that kid get through school. He was very inspirational and a father figure to a lot of kids. He was just an unbelievable guy.”
Conn said the entire community will miss Bowman.
“A lot hold him high on the list of the best people they have ever known,” Conn said.
“As an athlete, you knew you were loved,” added Thoennes. “He had his ear to the ground. If anybody was in trouble, he knew about it before anybody else.
“There is nobody like him any more. He was a legend. You don’t have those icons any more.”
Bowman was an example of manhood.
“You look at Bowman and see the epitome of toughness, but when you got to know him, you got to learn what it means to be a man: to be caring and have sensitivity.
“He was there for kids. He was a parent to a lot of kids who didn’t have parents looking out for them. He loved being around the kids.”
Bowman, an Army veteran, is survived by his wife, Ellen, and son, Daniel. Per Bowman’s wishes, there will be no services or visitation.
“That’s typical Bowman,” Thoennes said. “He never wanted to draw attention to himself. You couldn’t find a more humble man than Bowman. When he got awards, he’d be the first to give credit to someone else.”
Bowman, who never wrestled himself, coached the sport for 30 years, compiling a 407-89-5 record for a .817 winning percentage. Only 12 coaches in state history have won more.
He spent 23 seasons at LeRoy, going 392-80-5 (.827). He coached unbeaten teams in 1966-67, 1971-72 and 1977-78. Six of his other squads only lost one match.
Bowman guided Panther grapplers from 1964-65 to 1966-67 and returned in 1971-72 after working in between in Rockford and Mahomet. He also coached football and track before retiring in 1991.
Bowman, who taught drivers’ education and P.E., never coached a losing wrestling team at LeRoy. He coached four state medalists including 1983-84 state heavyweight champion Ron Oliver, who won a school record 127 matches.
“He was a terrific coach,” said Oliver, who was 42-0 his senior year. “We were all one big family.
“He sure taught me a lot in life. He was not only a coach, he was always a friend. He will be deeply missed in LeRoy. He knew how to help people. He knew how to fix problems.”
Bowman was named the Central Illinois Class A Wrestling Coach of the Year in 1983-84. He was inducted into the Illinois Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association Hall of Fame in 1994.
Bowman was Illinois Wesleyan’s football captain and MVP as a nose guard in 1961. It was announced last week that the Jan. 24 Panther Invitational will be renamed in his honor.
In a 1991 Pantagraph story about his retirement, Bowman said he would miss “the day-to-day association with the kids. There's more to coaching than just coaching. The more you're in it, the more you find that out."
Copyright © 2009, Pantagraph Publishing Co. All rights reserved.