Mitch Overlie, you’re not alone.
Former Greenwave student-athletes have voiced their support for the longtime Fallon coach, who said he was originally slapped with a supposed lifetime ban from coaching at the school because of a hazing incident in 2010. Within 24 hours of reports that Overlie would not be able to coach in Churchill County, the ban was lifted but Overlie cannot help coach the long distance runners for the track and field team this spring.
From state champion wrestlers to state-qualifying cross-country runners, support hasn’t lacked for Overlie, who could possibly be coaching for the last time when his wrestling team competes in the state tournament in Primm this weekend. Overlie, who took over the program after Louie Mori stepped down when Fallon took second at the Super State tournament in Elko in 1999, overcame a rocky start in the Class 4A when the Greenwave struggled to compete in the state’s largest division.
But Overlie, known to his student-athletes as Coach O, helped rebuild the program into the northern region’s best, which was capped off by an impressive 43-dual winning streak that ended in January 2008. State champions were common throughout Overlie’s coaching career, although Fallon hasn’t produced one since Colin Merkley won it all in Fallon’s last year in the 4A in 2010.
“He’s just an awesome role model and someone I’ll always look up to, and I feel like it’s that way not only for every athlete that he coaches, but also every student that gets to have him in class,” said Merkley, who’s wrestling at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Arizona. “He’s an awesome guy that has tremendous community support and connects with his athletes and students better than anyone I know.”
The de Braga brothers — Trevor, Trent and Frank — grew up in the wrestling program and turned out state-quality seasons year after year. Both Trevor and Trent, who graduated from Colorado Mesa University last year, each won a state title in the 4A, while injuries prevented Frank de Braga from following his brothers’ footsteps.
“Throughout high school wrestling, Coach Overlie taught me more than wrestling. He taught me to be a tough, tenacious and well-rounded young man,” said Trevor de Braga, who returned home to help coach football and wrestling. “I could go to Coach Overlie for any problem whether it was on or off the mat. He is considered one of a few of the top influential people in my life. He gave me certain tools (wrestling moves), and pushed me to be a champion. He’s by far the best coach I had in high school, hands down.”
Frank de Braga echoed his brother, saying that Overlie was just as influential on the mat as he was when life mattered most off.
“Coach O was the type of coach who cared not only about success on the mat but off as well,” said de Braga, a sophomore who played in his second season for Colorado Mesa’s football team. “He knew what it took to make someone great and went beyond expectations to connect with all of his wrestlers and athletes. I can honestly say if it wasn’t for Coach Overlie, I would be nowhere close to where I am today.”
While Fallon struggled as a whole in competing in the 4A, wrestling was the most consistent boys sport while volleyball grabbed most of the headlines on the girls’ side.
For Ryan McCormick, who graduated from Carroll College last year and assists Overlie, he remembers vividly how much wrestling meant to Overlie and the school.
“I was here when Fallon was at the bottom of the 4A and aside from a few state champions in golf and volleyball, wrestling was the only true, constantly dominant sport in Fallon,” said McCormick, who was a senior when Spanish Springs snapped Fallon’s long dual winning streak in 2008. “People used to look forward to Wednesday night home duals.”
Riley Orozco, who was Overlie’s only wrestler to move onto the collegiate level and win a Division I conference championship, credited Overlie for his success in high school as he went from an unknown, scrappy wrestler to the state’s, and eventually, the Pac-12’s best.
“In my career I’ve had many positive influences that helped get to where I am at and he is one of them,” said Orozco, who won the Pac-12 title as a junior and now is an assistant coach at his alma matter at Bakersfield. “I thought Coach O was a good coach. He has done a lot to help CCHS athletics and has put in a lot of time. He has done his part to help many athletes, not just wrestlers, to accomplish their goals.”
But Overlie wasn’t a one-sport minded coach.
He brought his wrestling mentality and philosophy with the cross country and track programs, helping student-athletes enjoy the art of running long distance.
“Coach Overlie knows wrestling and running very well but more than that, he knows how to motivate his athletes on the athletic ground and in the classroom,” said Tanner Boone, who was a cross country and long-distance track standout and now competes at the University of Great Falls (Mont.). “Coach Overlie helped me become a better runner. More than that, he helped me become a better human being. Coach O was someone I could laugh with and come to if I had trouble in any aspect of my life.”