Dan Drosopoulos has devoted much of his life to wrestling, either as an athlete or a coach.
The sport he holds dearest is now giving him something back.
Drosopoulos will be inducted into the Illinois Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association hall of fame on Saturday, April 20, at the organization's annual banquet in Countryside. He will also be honored at the IHSA state wrestling tournament on Friday, Feb. 15.
Drosopoulos, 60, was informed by his high school coach, Charley Anderson of Savanna, in mid-December of the honor.
"I'm not afraid to say I choked up on the phone," Drosopoulos said. "I thanked him several times. Charley just called me [Sunday], and I thanked him again a couple of times. It's great for him and it's great for me."
Drosopoulos coached wrestling at Morrison High School from 1976 to 2007, the first two seasons as an assistant, followed by 29 as head coach. He guided the Mustangs to a 231-237-6 dual meet record, won a Three Rivers title in 1984 and finished sixth at state that same year.
Individually, Drosopoulos coached 31 state qualifiers, 14 placewinners, six state finalists and one state champion – Patrick Hamilton in 1996. He enjoyed working with those athletes, as well as those of lesser notoriety.
"The state tournament is phenomenal," Drosopoulos said, "especially the finals, and I was fortunate enough to be there several times. There's also watching the kid you knew had no talent at all, but suddenly turned it around and did something for himself."
Drosopoulos nearly gave up coaching wrestling about 20 years ago, when in his view the sport was in trouble.
"There were years that were very, very frustrating," Drosopoulos said, "and we were afraid in the early 1990s wrestling was going to die. The numbers were down across the state. The enthusiasm was terrible."
His answer was to dedicate himself further to the sport.
"Charley Anderson taught me a long time ago you've got to be a salesman if you're going to be a coach," Drosopoulos said. "You beat the halls, you beat the locker rooms, you drag kids in to talk to them, 'Hey this a sport you should be able to be good at.'"
Drosopoulos stayed in charge long enough to coach his sons, Tom and Matt, at Morrison, then followed both of their wrestling careers at Loras College in Dubuque. In 2007, he coached 145-pounder Tony Vanderleest to second place at state, then left his shoes in the middle of the mat, signifying the end of his coaching career.
Drosopoulos was also an accomplished wrestler. He had a 75-40-3 record at Savanna, and qualified for state as a junior – no small feat in a one-class state tournament.
He then went to Augustana College, where he was a 4-year starter for the Vikings and posted a record of 71-44-1. He qualified for the Division II national tournament four times.
Drosopoulos continued wrestling after college and competed in seven United States Olympic Trials (5 Greco-Roman and 2 Freestyle) over four Olympiads. He also competed in old-timers wrestling tournaments until 1989, when his sons took up the sport. He had a 37-5-1 record in old-timers tourneys.
Coaching, however, has been the focus of Drosopoulos' wrestling interest for quite some time, and he's still willing to pitch in when asked. His son, Tom, is the coach at Illini Bluffs, and Dan has helped out there. He has also conducted clinics at several area high schools.
When asked what he's going to miss most about coaching, Drosopoulos mentioned the camaraderie with referees and other coaches, but not until he first mentioned the wrestlers. It was the interaction with the athletes that kept him going for more than three decades.
"I didn't like the long bus rides," Drosopoulos said. "I started getting to dislike the Saturday morning practices, but the kids made it worth it."
High school: Savanna, 1971
College: Augustana, 1975
FYI: Teacher and coach at Morrison from 1976-2007. ... Will be indicuted into IWCOA hall of fame on April 20. ...