Truly an iconic figure in amateur wrestling....
From the 'Waterloo Courier-Journal
Sunday, August 30, 2009 6:09 AM CDT
Allen slaps mat on accomplished officiating career
By JIM NELSON, firstname.lastname@example.org
WATERLOO --- Mike Allen had no more excuses for his granddaughter, Anishia.
As he dropped the precocious kindergartner at Price Lab School last week, Allen knew life couldn't get much better. And the 59 1/2-year-old Allen didn't want to continue to disappoint Anishia by being away every weekend from November through March.
So after 35 years as a widely respected college and high school official, Allen decided it was time to hang up his whistle.
"I'm not Brett (Favre). This is it for me," laughed Allen. "It's okay right now.
"It'll probably be tougher in November ... March."
Allen considered retiring two years ago when another respected Waterloo native and collegiate official, his good friend and golfing partner Chuck Yagla, decided to retire.
But he felt he had a few years left and stuck around until Anishia melted his heart.
"When I was leaving to go officiate, she would always say, 'Poppa, why are you gone so much?'" Allen explained.
"I'd say, 'This is what I do,' and she'd say, 'Can I go with you? When are you coming back?'
"I think sometimes you have to decide what is more important, and now she is more important. I don't think you realize how much family time you miss until a moment like the one I had dropping her off at school last week.
"My son, Victor, and daughter, Dnice, they didn't understand it when they were younger, but as they got older I think they began to appreciate how much it meant to me."
Allen is calling it quits after numerous NCAA championships and conference tournaments --- Division I (23), Division II (12), Division III (6), NAIA (4), Junior College (3), Big Ten championships (13), Pac-10 championships (11) in addition to four college all-star meets and seven NWCA National Duals.
Allen also worked 20 traditional Iowa State high school tournaments and was inducted into the Iowa State High School Officials Hall of Fame earlier this decade. He was inducted into the FILA International Hall of Fame in 2007.
He got his start in the business back in 1969 while still in college at Ellsworth, but didn't actively pursue a career in officiating until 1976. He got his first big break on the college scene when Bob Siddens, not only the respected coach of Dan Gable, but a legendary official, gave him an Oregon State-Iowa State dual on Jan. 19, 1981, when Siddens was overbooked.
Iowa State won 36-3, and Allen was on his way.
"I have so many people to thank because so many people influenced me in the business," Allen said. "You have to understand, I never envisioned I'd have such a long and successful run.
"But when I came along I had Russ Smith, Kevin Evans, Chuck Patton, Dick Walker, Bob Siddens, Gene Luttrell, Keith Young, Harold Nichols ... . When I started, this was the mecca of wrestling, Waterloo ... the state of Iowa. And those guys kept wrestling in the spotlight. I was just fortunate to be in the right spot at the right time."
According to his friends and colleagues, Allen worked hard to become one of the best.
"Mike was serious, was determined to become a good referee," said Luttrell, with whom Allen worked as an assistant wrestling coach at Waterloo Central High School. "He studied. He went on a couple of trips with me to watch and learn. He wanted to be the best. That is the way he is about everything.
"Mike quickly became very competent and because of that was instantly accepted."
Being accepted was one of the many obstacles Allen had to hurdle to become a big-time wrestling official. Allen was the first African-American wrestling official in the state of Iowa.
"He was afraid about what the response would be when he went to some small towns," Luttrell recalled. "But because he commanded the mat so well, I don't believe it was ever an issue."
Yagla, who was a frequent traveling companion with Allen for major tournaments, said Allen was well-respected.
"What made Mike so good was his demeanor," said Yagla. "He was always respectful of the athletes and coaches. One of his main strengths was he exuded confidence, and that carried over with the athletes and coaches.
"He was very good in his positioning and very seldom did he get caught out of position as an official."
Allen, who retired from the Waterloo school district last year, isn't quite finished with the officiating game.
He's been invited to hold officiating clinics in San Antonio and Houston in December and has been asked to be an assistant head official (no mat work) at the NWCA National Duals in January.
"I had a lot of mentors when I got into the game and now I want to do that for other officials," Allen said. "I've gained a lot of knowledge over the years and I want to share it, assist and mentor other officials."