Like every wrestling coach, Mike Schyck’s a lifer, beginning on a basement mat at age five, getting mauled by big brother Doug, both of them coached and drilled by their dad—himself a wrestler, of course. Mike’s in his early fifties now, a five-foot-ten brick in a navy-blue track suit. He kept wrestling, and winning titles, into his forties, at international meets in Europe.
“Budapest and Sarajevo—everybody over there had cauliflower ear,” he says. “The grocery clerk, the female bank teller—everybody’s got cauliflower ear. Everybody was friends. You’re around all that, you’re in, you’re part of the family. They don’t know about headgear over there—it’s a mark of who they are.”
Mike’s got the ears: deformed by years of blunt trauma, bulbous, mottled, cartilaginous, incurable, and a badge of honor among his warrior cult. When I went to see him last winter he was coaching at Lemon Bay High, his alma mater, halfway between Sarasota and Fort Myers, in Englewood, where he was also fitness director at the local YMCA. He won two Florida state high school championships here for the Manta Rays, went 68–0 as a senior, and took a full ride to wrestle for Ohio State University. At OSU, he was a two-time All American at 158 pounds—among the top eight in the nation at that weight in 1992 and 1993.