Bob Darrah: Still coaching after all these years

Bob Darrah: Still coaching after all these years

by Ben Frotscher


Nick Hobbs walked home every night with his wrestling coach, Bob Darrah. Darrah lived in the same neighborhood as the eighth grader in Morning Sun, Iowa, and Hobbs was one of the first athletes Darrah ever coached.

Hobbs said Darrah gave him some of the best advice and compliments an aspiring wrestler could get.

Hobbs once wrestled against a high-school student from Waterloo. He was still in eighth grade, and beat his opponent fairly easily. The Waterloo coach came up to Darrah after that match and asked the coach why Hobbs wasn’t wrestling varsity. Darrah told him Hobbs was in eighth grade, but he had the potential to be the next Dan Gable.

Hobbs heard him, and took the compliment to heart.

“He was a great promoter and a little innovative because he took a program and developed a tradition and a culture,” Hobbs said, who is now superintendent at Marion Community Schools.

That was 1969. But some things never change, and Darrah has never changed his coaching habits and methods. What has changed is the scenery – the mat has become the golf course.

The longtime wrestling coach is currently in his 16th season as women’s golf coach at Simpson and is hoping to lead his team to a successful spring season. He’s used to success.

Darrah has won 82 meets in his career as women’s golf coach and has been named Iowa Conference golf coach of the year 10 times. Darrah has also led the Storm to eight conference championships and nine top-four finishes in the National Golf Coaches Association.

“Coach Darrah is a bulldog of a competitor and he always has been – as an athlete and former wrestling coach,” said Tom Bohnenkamp, women’s golf coach at Buena Vista.

Darrah has been a staple of the women’s golf program at Simpson, but more people recognize him as one of the best wrestling coaches the state has ever seen. The former coach at Morning Sun, Urbandale and West Des Moines Dowling Catholic amassed a record of 340-17-2 during 31 seasons as a high-school wrestling coach. That record puts him sixth all-time in the state for wins.

Hobbs said Darrah’s interaction with athletes is his best trait as a coach.

“He was probably the best motivator of young kids,” Hobbs said. “He has knack for getting kids excited.”

Darrah was also a successful wrestling coach at Simpson – while he was also the women’s golf coach. He finished with a record of 86-25-1 from 1989-1995 and won Simpson’s only conference championship for wrestling in 1991.

Considering his record as a wrestling coach, it may be surprising that Darrah didn’t wrestle competitively in high school or in college. He was a four-year letterwinner at Westmar College in football and golf where he got his degree in physical education. Darrah’s closest experience to wrestling was boxing.

“I won the Des Moines Gold Glove Championships in 1954,” Darrah said. “I always liked to fight since I was a kid.”

According to Darrah, the athletes put up with him as a coach. His athletes said he’s a great coach.

“He’s an extremely hard worker and he wants you to be an extremely hard worker,” said sophomore Jessica Harvey, a member of the Simpson women’s golf team.