When They Played: Putnam County-Hall wrestling coach Gavin Kurtz

First-year coach was two-time regional champ, state qualifier at Ottawa

When wrestling season rolls around this summer, Gavin Kurtz will get his first shot at being a head coach.

After seven years as an assistant at St. Bede and Seneca, Kurtz is taking over the Putnam County-Hall program.

As he steps into his first lead role, he’ll use lessons he learned from Ottawa coach Peter Marx.

“I try to be the coach that I needed as an athlete,” said Kurtz, a 2007 Ottawa graduate. “Coach Marx at Ottawa is a huge reason for me being the coach I am today. We still talk a few times per week, and he continues to help me learn and grow.

“Marx gives me advice on how to deal with different personalities, ways to promote the sport, and we bounce practice ideas off each other.”

Kurtz was a three-sport athlete at OTHS, playing football and wrestling for four years and participating in track and field for three years.

As a wrestler, Kurtz helped the Pirates to conference championships as a junior and senior, to runner-up regional finishes those years and a new school record for dual wins in a season.

Individually, he was a two-time conference champion and won titles at the Yorkville, Conant and Princeton invitationals. He won the 189-pound bracket at the Class AA Minooka Regional as a junior before repeating in the weight class as a senior at the Pontiac Regional.

Kurtz qualified for state as a junior in 2006 by placing third at the Normal Community Sectional. He finished the season 34-10 and was named the team MVP. Kurtz also was a two-time Ottawa Times All-Area selection.

Following graduation, Kurtz went to Jamestown College (now University of Jamestown) to play football and wrestle.

He later transferred to Iowa Lakes Community College to wrestle where he helped the Lakers to a top five finish at nationals in their first year as a program.

While Kurtz said his current athletes “don’t even know what I look like yet” and thus don’t know anything about his own career, he does use examples from his time on the mat with his wrestlers.

“I do use examples from my playing days,” Kurtz said. “The biggest one would be about never being too good to work on the little details.”