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Earl Danan has reason to be proud of No. 300

02/11/2014, 11:15am CST
By Rob Valentin | For Sun-Times Media | @chicagolandprep

Guerin wrestling coach Earl Danan is back on the job after suffering a pair of heart attacks before he turned 40

Earl Danan celebrates

Earl Danan celebrates his 300th victory as coach along with the Guerin wrestling team. | Provided

Guerin wrestling coach Earl Danan collected his 300th career win with the Gators’ 58-16 victory over Ridgewood on Feb. 1.

While that’s quite the accomplishment for Danan, who has guided the Gators for the last five seasons, he’s just thrilled to be coaching.

Back in 2006, Danan had just taken over the Fenton wrestling program when he felt dizzy and wound up collapsing in a classroom. Just 35, he was rushed to the hospital where he learned he had a heart attack.

“My artery ruptured and it was trying to fix itself and formed a blood clot and when it did that it sealed the blood flow,” Danan said. “The clot dissolved on its own and I took a month off to recover.”

Three months after the first heart attack, Danan was driving home from wrestling practice when he experienced the same symptoms. Again, Danan had ruptured an artery. The clot dissolved on its own so Danan again avoided any type of open heart surgery. But it was clear there was a problem.

Danan said his heart problem is a matter of genetics.

He ran cross country at Maine West all four years and played football his first two years. He was a four-year letterman for the wrestling team and participated in track and field for three years before playing volleyball as a senior.

He continued to stay active running half-Ironmans, marathons and triathlons after graduating from Northeastern Illinois with a degree in special education and a master’s in education from UIC.

“It’s something I don’t really have control over,” Danan said. “My father had a heart condition and went through quadruple bypass surgery. I’m on medication and it’s strengthening that area so it doesn’t continue to explode. I get checkups every three months and change medications because the medication is affecting my kidney and liver.”

Danan has not had another attack since January 2007, but he remembers how it affected him.

“Not only did I do the physical therapy but I had mental therapy,” Danan said. “I’m religious and I did a lot of praying as well. It was difficult and frustrating at times, but I got the proper help physically and mentally.”

Danan took off seven months and then began to substitute at area schools before taking a full-time teaching position at Guerin in the fall of 2009. He still isn’t slowing down. He coaches wrestling and the boys and girls cross country teams, is an adviser for the Class of 2015 and is in charge of G-Club, a service program he started in 2010.

Sophia Chavez knows Danan as well as any student at the school. She’s a junior wrestler and was on the cross country team in the fall. She’s also belongs to G-Club.

“I feel like he’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever had,” Chavez said. “I feel like he cares more about us than any other coach would. He cares about everyone and it makes it easier to open up to him.”

Chavez is one of three girls on the wrestling team and it was something Danan supported.

“When he heard some girls wanted to be on the team he encouraged us to try out,” Chavez said. “He shows excitement for the sport and it’s not just a job. He makes us want to become a better runner, a better wrestler, a better person.”

Guerin athletic director Phil Radke has been amazed at how dedicated Danan has been to Guerin.

“I would say that in all my years of being in the educational field and being an administrator of sports, he’s one of the most dedicated and charismatic coaches I’ve ever worked with,” Radke said. “That carries over into his athletes. They see how dedicated he is and they try to meet him to the best of their abilities.”

The Gators competed in the 1A Lisle Regional on Saturday, where Juan Reyes IV took first at 120 pounds and Mike Szczygiel placed third at 220 to advance to the Plano Sectional.

John Borghese at 113, Matt Lilly at 152, Amber Byrne at 160 and Andres Gonzalez at 285 all came in fourth.

“I really want to credit my assistant coaches, Juan Reyes III and David Connelly, for all their help,” Danan said. “I’ve had a lot of people who have been inspirational to me. My cross country coach at Maine West, Bill Barringer, and my wrestling coach, Rick Lombardi, are both in the Illinois Hall of Fame for their sports.”

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