After 39 years of coaching wrestling and teaching, Mark Neumann is stepping away from both roles at New Richmond High School.

Neumann, who thrived as a high school and college wrestler before embarking on his coaching career, has spent the past 24 years as the New Richmond varsity wrestling coach and a high school English teacher.

Among the hundreds of wrestlers coached by Neumann were his four sons: Josh, Israel, Joel and Caleb. He also has two daughters, Aubrey and Meredith. His sons combined for 450 wins in their Tiger varsity careers.

Coach Neumann got his start at St. Croix Central, where he is inducted in the school’s wrestling Hall of Fame. He wrestled when all the WIAA wrestlers competed in one division. Neumann was undefeated in his junior season until the state tournament semifinals. The match ended 0-0 after the overtime.

“Back then, the referee decided the overtime matches and I lost on a referee’s decision,” Neumann said.

He finished in third place that year, but he came back in his senior season, 1973, to win the WIAA state championship at 182 pounds with an undefeated record.

Neumann said he was recruited by more than 100 colleges. He elected to attend one of the national powers of college wrestling, the University of Oklahoma. Neumann earned NCAA All-American honors twice, with his fifth place finishes at nationals in 1976 and 1977. He helped the Sooners win the NCAA national championship in 1974. The Sooners finished in the top four at the NCAA nationals in each of his four years on the team.

Out of college, Neumann was hired to teach in Guthrie, Okla., where he stayed for 15 years before being hired in New Richmond. His Guthrie team earned one state championship and was runner-up once.

“We were ranked in the top five in the state most of the last seven or eight years,” Neumann said.

In his years in New Richmond, Neumann’s Tiger teams usually finished in the upper half of the Middle Border Conference standings, only to find their conference championship hopes blocked by Ellsworth.

Neumann marveled at the dedication of students who become wrestlers, talking of how it benefits them in the lessons they learn for life.

“It’s such a hard sport. It teaches you persistence and perseverance. Wrestling is like life. You’d like it to be all sunshine and roses, but not everything turns out the way you want,” he said.

Coaching his sons ranks among his favorite memories. The first that came to his mind was when Josh was in a bind at the 1997 state tournament semifinals. Josh trailed 4-0 with five seconds left. He was able to stand up, get an escape and immediately put his opponent to his back to a five-point move. Josh was beaten in the state championships that year, but came back to win the state title at 189 pounds in 1998.

In recalling Joel’s career, it was his 100th win, against a state-ranked wrestler, during the Bi-State Classic. For Caleb, it was watching how hard he worked to become a top quality wrestler. In Israel’s case, it was how he acted after a loss. Israel went through a season unbeaten, only to lose at regionals. Instead of pouting, he remained positive and supported his teammates who were still competing.

Neumann left the door open to returning to coaching in the future. He was definite about taking a year away.

“For my perspective, it would be good to take a year off and evaluate. I have no idea where my life will carry me,” he said.