Robert Mueller made a way for the Monticello wrestling program in the 70’s.
Now he’s being recognized in the David Bartelma Hall of Fame.
When he started coaching at Monticello High School in 1966 slowly but surely the wrestling team became more and more competitive.
Mueller began his coaching and teaching career at Underwood High School and moved to Monticello because his daughter was being cared for at Abbott Northwestern Hospital and him and his wife Sharon decided to move closer to the cities.
He then decided to work as a math teacher at Monticello High School and coach wrestling as well.
Mueller joined the wrestling team at his high school in Mahnomen, Minnesota and quickly fell in love.
His reason for trying out the team wasn’t so romantic though.
“I joined the team because I was so small that I couldn’t play basketball or football,” Mueller said. “When I started wrestling I weighed about 80 pounds. Wrestling was the best fit for me physically.”
He graduated from high school in 1959 with a wrestling record of 38-6.
He then went on to attend college at the University of Minnesota- Moorhead and earned a B.S. in Math and Education, but he didn’t wrestle in college because of a shoulder injury.
“I wanted to wrestle in college, but in order to do that I would’ve had to have major surgery, so it wasn’t worth it to me,” Mueller said.
His first job out of college was teaching math and coaching wrestling at Underwood High School, but his second job out of college is what really put him on the map.
He moved to Monticello and started teaching and coaching a previously unsuccessful wrestling team.
Before Mueller stepped on the scene, Monticello had only won five matches in five years.
Mueller caused a change.
During his time at Monticello from 1966 to 1977 he had a coaching record of 105-30-4.
“I prided myself in numbers,” Mueller said. “I just wanted wrestlers to coach. We were deep in every weight.
The Monticello wrestling team started out slow, but in no time they became the team to look out for because of Mueller.
In 1972-73 they were the District 19 champs.
In 1976-77 they were runner ups.
Back then there were about 80 high schools in the district, so that was a very big accomplishment.
Richard Fair, one of Mueller’s wrestlers, looked back on his experience and the transformation the program made.
“I can recall one of our matches where about 1,500 people were packed into this little gym because we were so talented.”
“The fire marshal actually had to close us down because it was getting too crowded,” Mueller said. “If you didn’t get there by 5:30 p.m. for a 7 p.m. match, you just couldn’t get in.”
There the famous Monticello “PIT” was born.
“I thought it was amazing,” Mueller said. “You expect parents and things like that, but it turned into so much more than that.”
During his time at Monticello he had a 47 consecutive winning streak.
Mueller said there was four ties in those wins, but still wins none the less.
His final year coaching was in 1977 due to ulcers, but he went on to become a referee because he loved it so much.
His love for the sport continued and he couldn’t stay away, so he started coaching again at the middle school level in 1993 to 2002 in Monticello.
Now Mueller is fully retired and looking forward to his induction on Saturday, May 2.
He was in Nevada at the casino when he heard the good news.
“Rick Fair, Jack Holker, and Brad Fleahman (who were all on Mueller’s winning Monticello team) called me up and I was in complete shock,” If you talk to any of them they would probably said that I was stuttering.”
Mueller’s accomplishments are piled high and these are just a few reasons of why he is being inducted.
“It’s my belief that that period of time really set up Monticello wrestling interest and some great wrestling athletes followed because of him,” Fair said.
He earned a 142-40-4 coaching record in his career, he served as the region five representative to the state high school league, was named district 19 coach of the year twice, earned Wright County conference champions six times, volunteered at the wrestling state tournament for over 30 years, he founded and continues to help out at the Monticello wrestling tournament, started the junior high program in Monticello, and he served as an official in high school and college for 40 years.
Things are constantly changing because of COVID-19, but as of now the David Bartelma Wrestling Hall of Fame Induction is taking place on Saturday, May 2 at McKinney’s in Benson, Minnesota at 5:30.
Mueller will be honored alongside eight other members: Brian Bakke, Tom Campanaro, Mark Costello, Dave Droegemuller, Loren Hacker, Dan Jinks, Don Kussinen, and Brian “Buck” Lindberg.