If you want to find Markus Mollica these days you'd better trade in your wrestling shoes for a surfboard and get down to Manhattan Beach, CA. A native of Akron, OH, Markus now calls this exclusive Southern California beach city home.
"I love it here," says Markus. You have the sun, surf, sand and beautiful California girls, what more could you ask for?" Markus has lived in a number of different places over the years while training for three Olympics but California is where he is burying his roots for life after wrestling.
Markus has been extremely successful in wrestling at all levels of his career. The following is just the highlights:
2X Undefeated High School State Champion (Walsh-Jesuit)
National High School Champion
Junior National Champion
4X PAC Ten Champion (First freshman to ever win PAC Ten)
4X All-American at Arizona State University (ASU)
2X NCAA Champion (First freshman to win National Championship for ASU)
Ranked in the top 8 U.S. Senior Freestyle rankings from 96-2004
4X Scholar Athlete for ASU
With a wrestling career spanning over twenty years, Markus has experienced a couple key transition periods in life in which he chose to pursue his dreams in wrestling and forego a progression into what I call the "real world."
"In high school I didn't start thinking about going to college until my junior year," said Markus. "I never thought too much about life after wrestling or high school because I was young and that wasn't really on my mind. There was one thing I thought would be cool and that was to be a chiropractor. We always had one at our practice and I became interested in that particular career." Thoughts of anything other than wrestling were put on the back burner as Markus became one of the most sought after recruits in the country.
Markus finished his last 2 years in high school as an undefeated two time state champion, national high school champion and junior national champion. With legendary coach Bobby Douglas knocking on his door with a five year full scholarship to ASU, Markus packed his bags and headed to Tempe, AZ"¦home of the Sun Devils.
"In college training was my primary focus," said Markus. "During that same time I was majoring in Kinesiology (the study of the mechanics of motion with respect to human anatomy). I worked hard to strike a balance between wrestling and my academics; it was important for me to have success in both areas. Sometimes I don't know which was tougher, wrestling or school? Wrestling instilled in me a work ethic, a sense of responsibility and a confidence that allowed me to succeed in both areas."
Markus crushed his competition in college. He was a four-time PAC Ten champion and a two-time NCAA champion. As for his secondary goal, his academics"¦he crushed that too. Markus was a four-time scholar athlete.
"As my college career was coming to an end it was just before the 1996 Olympic trials," said Markus. "It was a perfect time for me as I was just graduating from college and continued training as I had been doing for so many years. I ended up eighth in the trials and just unconsciously kept training not really making decisions about life, again wrestling was my primary focus."
In 1997 things were about to change for Markus. He was going to be faced with a decision to take him out of the world that had been his comfort for so long. This choice would set him on a winding road that is all too familiar with elite wrestlers. A road that while you are on it you are constantly looking in all directions in search of what you want to do with your life, what you should do with your life and everything in between.
"In 1997 before the national tournament I injured my knee, I was unable to compete or train," said Markus. "I decided to take some time off and pursue a career as a chiropractor. I moved to Huntington Beach, CA where I was going to settle in, establish residency and complete my training. During this time I never transitioned into my career training, I guess I kind of had a mid-life crisis at the age of twenty five," Markus laughs.
"Wrestling was pulling me back and I decided to commit to training for the 2000 Olympics."
"I accepted a position as an assistant wrestling coach at Harvard University," said Markus. "This transition afforded me the opportunity to train for the 2000 Olympics and get paid to coach, two things I love."
Olympic Silver medalist, Stephen Abas in Mollica's corner.
Markus moved across the country back to California to train with Ryan Tobin at the RAW training center in El Segundo, CA. "After about a year there I had the opportunity to become a resident at the Olympic Training Center (OTC) in Colorado Springs, CO," said Markus. "The OTC is the best training facility in the world, with the best coaches and training environment. I committed to training there in pursuit of fulfilling my dream of becoming an Olympic champion in 2004."
Also in the cycle of training for the 2004 Olympics, Markus was extended an opportunity to wrestle for the California Claw in Real Pro Wrestling, the first professional league for REAL wrestling in the history of sports and television. "It was great to be able to be part of wrestling history and give back to the sport," said Markus. "The opportunity to make money wrestling while training for the Olympics and growing the sport is a perfect combination for me; I can't wait for season 2!"
Markus didn't make the Olympic team in 2004 and was faced with yet another decision of, "what now?"
With the pull of California too much to resist, Markus moved back"¦for the third time!
"I was offered an opportunity as a Fitness Manager at Gold's gym," said Markus. "I felt it was a great transition into a career that utilizes my degree and background as an athlete but more specifically it allowed me to transition back to the Southern California lifestyle I enjoy. Recently, I left Gold's Gym to coach wrestling at North Torrance high school. Being a coach allows me to give back to wrestling and to help younger student-athletes with their pursuit of excellence in wrestling, education and life.
"Looking into the near future I also want to get more into real estate sales and investing, said Markus. "The market is crazy here in the South beach and there is money to be made."
"Dan Gable once told me, Markus, you have to have something to look forward to." The way I see it is many different opportunities and adventures present themselves, it is up to me to see what life has to offer down one of those roads."
Coaches Corner with Markus Mollica:
For the kids
Be a sponge, absorb as much knowledge as you can.
Create your own style to be the best you can be.
For the parents
Be as supportive as you can with your kids.
Give them choices and help them make the right decisions.
Teach them everything has consequences, good and bad.
For other coaches
Always encourage and motivate.
Don't look at a loss as a failure but as a stepping stone to the next level.