Carol Stream, IL- I have learned that some stories are harder to finish than others. I can’t explain why that is but it happens to me. This story on Glenbard North High School wrestling, GoldDotNation, Bob Fulk and Mark Hahn is one of them. This #EpicProgram is so crazy good that it intimidates anyone trying to put it into words. Well, this is my humble effort.
Our goal is to honor current GBN wrestling head coach Mark Hahn on his historic final season at the helm of the Panthers storied program. But to start we have to travel to the quiet farming community of Moweaqua, Illinois. South of Decatur, located firmly in the “Farming Belt”, this is where ‘The Saga of GoldDotNation’ began with legend-to-be Robert Fulk.
A young man in 1950, Fulk, was part of the twenty one member graduating class of Moweaqua High School. A three sport athlete that oddly didn’t include wrestling (basketball, track and football), Fulk found mentors in coach Bob Oliver and Harold Anderson. After high school graduation, Fulk headed to Charleston, Illinois to continue his education and athletic career at Eastern Illinois University. As a Panther, Fulk would become an All-American in both wresting and football. From there on to semi-pro football playing for the Joliet Panthers. Glenbard North, Eastern Illinois and now Joliet. Panthers all!
This is where the future began to come more into focus for Fulk. A key part of his life would begin with the marriage to Janet. His lifelong partner, Janet would have more influence on what would eventually would become “The Life of Bob Fulk” than anyone else.
From EIU, the Fulk’s would begin a journey that would take them to Urbana HS, Kankakee HS and finally Proviso West HS. Football was Fulks first love, from playing to coaching, this is where he fine tuned his skills that would be so helpful in the future.
It was at Proviso West HS that the Fulk’s had a major decision awaiting them. Bob had an opportunity to finally become a wrestling head coach at the new high school in Carol Stream, Glenbard North HS. His bosses at Proviso were less than thrilled about losing their young and newly hired football coach. But fate is fickle and the Fulk’s headed westward to GBN to start anew. GoldDotNation was soon to be born.
Now in 1968 most people had no idea where Carol Stream was located. Fulk referred to it as “out in the cornfields”, a school referees had a hard time finding. But this is where Fulk was determined to move the wrestling program (and his young family) from a minor sport into a full blown powerhouse.
Fulk tells a good story about how he liked to rock the boat to get even treatment for his wrestlers. In this case (Coach Fulk has MANY great anecdotes) football cleats and basketball sneakers were supplied for no cost to the Panther players. Now Fulk wanted to know where his wrestling shoes were. He pressed the issue all the way to the top and finally received 50 pairs of free shoes for his team. The kicker was that from the point onward there would be NO free footwear for any GBN athletes. Fulk was a rebel and always fought hard for his players. Fair is fair!
While at a coaching clinic in Seattle, Washington, Fulk hatched the idea for what would eventually become GoldDotNation. During a motivational seminar, Fulk began to think of a way to make the Panther wrestling program ‘special’. This was in 1982 when Fulk and his team captain Bob Lacefield Memory Lane with Bob Lacefield came up with the Gold Dot idea. Originally the Secret Society of Gold Dot, it became somewhat controversial due to rumors and innuendos. Some were taken aback by these crazy Gold Dots appearing all over school and even the town. From tee shirts and posters to watches and even fingernails, GoldDotNation was taking on a life of its own.
It “drove people crazy” because they didn’t understand what the GoldDot was all about according to Fulk. The wrestling team would meet in Fulk’s basement every year. Those gatherings were fun, but the Coach had many school meetings where he had to defend his program from the baseless “Cultist” charges. Hey, this was the 1980’s! Things eventually calmed down and the GoldDotNation had been established and was to become a national trademark for Wrestling Excellence and Tradition.
Coach Fulk had known Mark Hahn since Hahn participated in a 5th and 6th grade youth wresting program that Fulk ran. One of the interesting similarities between Fulk and Hahn is that they both hailed from farming families. In fact, GBN was built on land purchased from Mark Hahn’s parents. Hahn wrestled for Fulk before heading off to the College of DuPage and what is now Illinois Benedictine University. With his teaching degree, Hahn headed back to GBN to find a job.
Now Hahn was not a great wrestler for Fulk and GoldDotNation but was a “tough ass and one tough kid” according to his future coaching mentor. Title 9 became the law of the land at this time so getting a teaching/coaching gig was somewhat difficult but Hahn eventually was hired as a full time substitute.
Now we are in the early ’90s and Fulk is thinking very hard about retiring. The tragic loss of his son was a blow that buckled the knees of this hardworking father and coach. Hahn didn’t feel he had enough experience to apply for the head coaching job. Replacing Fulks was hard for Hahn to envision. Fulk felt Hahn was “laid back about going for the job” but eventually talked into going for it.
The rest, as they say is history, Hahn has done “one hell of a job” as the Panthers head coach according to Fulk. Hahn was a “super athlete and came from a great family”, Fulk told me. He is so proud to see where Hahn has taken the GoldDotNation wrestling program and is sad to see Hahn call it quits after this season.