By David Fleet
After four years of wrestling, Goodrich High School Senior John Powers had won just a few matches.
“It was the 1993 regional versus Bendle High School and our team was on the cusp of a berth in the state team championship,” recalls Dennis Storrs, then-GHS head coach wrestling coach. “At 189 pounds I had a choice to send John or another more successful wrestler out there. We really needed that match and when I called on John, my assistant coaches thought I was crazy. I said to John, “You earned this— go out and show them what you’ve got. I want six hard minutes, not five-and-a-half. John won. Actually, he pinned the kid. It’s about showing confidence in the wrestler—it took someone to believe in him.”
The coaching career of Storrs, now 64, will be recognized on May 21 when he is inducted in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame for Lifetime Service to Wrestling in the Great State of Michigan. The award is in recognition of years of dedication to the development of leadership and citizenship in the youth through the sport of wrestling.
“It’s God, family and wrestling,” said Storrs. “I tell my wrestlers there are three rules to live by— do the right thing; give 100 percent; and treat people like you want to be treated.”
Storrs was humbled by the recognition.
“Honestly, it’s about the kids,” he said “Wrestling teaches work ethics—there are no time outs, no substitutions, it’s you against the other guy. My goal was to give them all the knowledge I could to prepare them.”
A 1970 Clarkston High School graduate, Storrs joined the wrestling team as a freshman in 1966—the first year for the high school squad.
“I was average,” he laughed. “I wrestled for three years and then quit when I was a senior and got a job. I played baseball locally for a few years then my youngest son Derek decided he wanted to wrestle so he joined the Clarkston Wrestling Club about 1980.”
Storrs married his childhood sweetheart, Suzanne, in 1969.
The family moved to Goodrich in 1979. Storrs coached at the Clarkston Wrestling Club from 1980-1983 the Goodrich Wrestling Club from 1984-2000 and coach GHS wrestling from 1986-1999.
Storrs youngest son, Andrew, joined the Goodrich Wrestling Club in 1985.
“D.J. Sirignano was the coach in Goodrich at the time,” he said.
“He asked me to help coach. Then when the other programs closed down for the season some of the Clarkston kids would come up to Goodrich to learn freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling. We just grew. It was like a field of dreams—build it and they will come. We were a family.”
Storrs recalls moving the lunch tables in Goodrich High School to lay down wrestling mats. Then Goodrich Athletic Director Al Martus gave Storrs a key to the high school for wrestling two nights per week
“We were a regional wrestling center,” he said. “Wrestlers would come from all over the state for a higher level of competition.”
Storrs served as Goodrich High School assistant wrestling coach from 1986-93 and head coach from 1993-1999.
“There were many great wrestlers over the years that I had the privilege of coaching,” he said. “In 1997, Jenny Donahoe, a female Goodrich wrestler at 103 pounds, was the first girl in Michigan to win a match at the team state championship level. “We’ve had more than a dozen wrestlers now coaching at college level including Michigan State and Nebraska, that have come through the club.”
Storrs’ wrestlers reached the final eight in the state four times, in 1995, 97, 98 and 99, and was state runner-up twice. During his time at Goodrich he had 40 all-state wrestlers and seven state championships from 1991-2002. He started the Goodrich Tournament of Champions that after 17 years is still going. Storrs was also USA Schoolboy head coach 1991-92; Michigan USA Wrestling assistant coach Cadet and Junior national team 1993; head coach from 1994-2000 and coached the Cadet National Dual team to top-five finishes in freestyle and Greco-roman wrestling in 2000.
Goodrich had more than 50 AAU and USA Wrestling National Champions from 1984-2000 in freestyle, Greco-roman and folkstyle. Storrs served one year as the Michigan Wrestling Coaches Association President; served on the MHSAA rules committee and was named regional coach of the year five times.
Storrs retired in 2012 after 35 years as a member of the Waterford Township Fire Department, including 12 years as fire chief.
Dennis and wife Suzanne have been married 48 years with three children, Nicole, Andrew and the late Derek. The couple has six grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
“Suzanne is the one that made my wrestling career possible,” he added.
“It takes a tremendous amount of time to run a wrestling program. I’m gone all day and she’s home taking care of things.”