PinDox Profile: Mick Harding; Emmetsburg HS ‘85/SD State
After posting the 1985 Lakes Conference Champions picture, a comment posted by Mick Harding caught my eye:
MICK HARDING: “All state champions or multiple in front row (except me though rated #1, and that sucks).”
Breaks my heart… I understand those thoughts/feelings, in fact, a sizable portion of the motivation for starting this site can be connected to my brother Justin and I trying to accept/cope with our own shortcomings in wrestling after decades. So naturally, after reading this comment, I decided to research how close Mick was to achieving his goal of winning state in HS…and holy cow, was he close.
Mick Harding was a 3X state placer for Emmetsburg, placing 6th at 2A 98 as a Sophomore in 1983, 3rd as a Junior in 1984 and 3rd as a Junior in 1985. On top of this, I know he won the Lakes Conference at least twice as a Junior and Senior, maybe more than twice. The Lakes Conference was no picnic back then… in the two pictures I’ve seen of the champions from that conference, the majority of the champions went on to win state.
Mick Harding made his first trip to state as a Sophomore in HS in 1983 at 2A 98. He had an unblemished record of 26-0 coming into the tournament. He won his first match via major decision when he defeated Pat Harris of Bellevue by the score of 11-0. This set up a quarterfinals match between he and fellow Sophomore, Scott Mangrich of Don Bosco. It appears as if Mangrich defeated Harding 6-0 in OT. Mangrich went on to win the bracket. Since Mangrich made the finals, Harding was allowed to wrestle back and won his first consolation match before falling to Brett Sweeney of Osage and Eric Hansen of Perry to finish 6th place. Not a bad showing for his first trip to state, but considering how close he was to defeating the guy who won the bracket, he likely went home with a lot of “what if’s” on his mind. He finished his Sophomore season with a record of 28-3.
As a Junior, Harding came in to the state tournament with a record of 26-1 and drew an upcoming talent from the opposite side of the state (E) as him named Randy Vogel, a Freshman from Camanche who had a record of 26-2 coming in. Harding beat Vogel 10-5 in this match and followed this up with a 6-4 win in the quarterfinals over future state finalist/HOF coach, Brent Jennings of Clarinda who was 28-0 himself coming in. Jennings would become a state finalist a year or two later and is currently in the HOF for his work coaching at Osage HS. It should be noted that both of Harding’s first two wins at this tournament were over guys who would later become state finalists. In the semifinals, Harding met up with eventual 3X state champion and future NCAA D1 National Champion, Jason Kelber of State Center-West Marshall. This task would be daunting for any wrestler at the tournament, for Kelber had already attained a reputation for being one of the best pound-for-pound wrestlers in the state. And Mick Harding fell just barely short to him, losing a 2-1 decision. Harding bounced back and defeated Lee Hilligas of Brooklyn, BGM and then defeated Scott Mangrich of Don Bosco for 3rd and 4th, avenging a quarterfinals loss he suffered to Mangrich the year before. 3 out of the 4 wins that Harding notched at state that year were to state finalists with one of them being a state champion. Mick finished the season 30-2.
Mick came into the state tournament at 2A 112 as a Senior sporting a 29-1 record and had the same first round matchup that he had the year before. Randy Vogel of Camanche, a Sophomore. As noted, Harding defeated Vogel 10-5 first round as a Junior, but Vogel flipped the script this year and won this match 7-6 in OT. Vogel ended up making the finals, so Harding was allowed to wrestle back and in doing so, he had to defeat a guy from Perry who was undefeated coming into the tournament named Jack Stewart just to reach the top 6. And he did it… and he followed this up with wins over Doug Meyer of Winterset and Steve Swenson of Humboldt to finish 3rd place. He finished the season 32-2.
Mick Harding was a 3X state placer in which the 3 losses that sent him to the consolation side of the bracket were decided by a one point match to Kelber and OT matches to Mangrich and Vogel. That’s how close he was. And two of those 3 guys (Mangrich and Kelber), Harding had beaten at the state tournament at one point or another. In Harding’s last 3 seasons, he had a combined regular season record of 81-2 and a total record of 90-7 in those last 3 years of HS. With all that noted, Mick Harding is up there with the best Iowa HS wrestlers to not win a state title. He was RIGHT THERE…
Mick Harding went on to wrestle D2 collegiately for South Dakota State University and sadly, a shoulder injury derailed his career… another reminder for wrestlers nowadays to be thankful for the advancements made over the years in surgical repair, for back then, if you suffered a severe injury to your knee, shoulder, etc., sometimes it meant the demise of your career.
Mick Harding… The man had an awesome wrestling career!
1983 2A 98
1. Scott Mangrich, So., Don Bosco
2. Jason Kelber, Fr., State Center-West Marshall
3. Mark Pogge, So., Tri-Center Neola
4. Brett Sweeney, So., Osage
5. Eric Hansen, So., Perry
6. Mick Harding, So., Emmetsburg
1984 2A 105
1. Jason Kelber, So., State
2. John Ites, Sr., Iowa Falls
3. Mick Harding, Jr., Emmetsburg
4. Scott Mangrich, Jr., Don Bosco
5. Dan Sinnott, So., Albia
6. Lee Hilligas, Sr., Brooklyn-BGM
1985 2A 112
1 Terry Schmuecker, Benton, VH
2 Randy Vogel, Camanche
3 Mickey Harding, Emmetsburg
4 Steve Swenson, Humboldt
5 Bill Bollman, West Union-NF
6 Doug Meyer, Winterset