Goebel guides Mater Dei to success on gridiron

By John Rohlf

The Message assistant editor

Mike Goebel

A lifelong Wildcat, Mike Goebel was recently recognized as the National Coach of the Year. 

A 1970 graduate of Mater Dei High School, Goebel was named the 2022-2023 National Football Coach of the Year by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS). Goebel won his second state football championship as a coach during the 2022 season, when the Wildcats won the Class 2A state title.

 “It’s a great compliment to our school and our program,” Goebel said. “I take it very humbly and I’m honored. But I realize more than anyone else, this, the Coach of the Year award nationally, that falls back on the players, the community and it particularly falls back to the great assistant coaches. They all do it.”

Goebel said during their 2022 state championship campaign, the Wildcats encountered “some bumps along the road.” After suffering a couple of losses in the early portion of their season, Mater Dei went on a winning streak before losing a close game to undefeated Reitz High School. Goebel believes Mater Dei’s performance in the loss helped provide a springboard for the Wildcats into the playoffs. 

“What happened in the playoffs, I won’t call it magical but I’ll say it’s the culmination of what every coach hopes to see in his team,” Goebel said. “The players were united. The coaches were united. Every coach had a part of that and they offered to the program. The main thing is the chemistry and the development of the team itself. The kids just played together as a unit and they were very coachable.”

Goebel also has coached teams to four runner-up finishes, 10 regional titles, 17 sectional titles and seven Southern Indiana Athletic Conference titles. 

Goebel also found success as a coach of the Mater Dei wrestling team, which he coached for 29 years. During his tenure, he led the Wildcat wrestling program to 12 Indiana High School Activities Association state championships in 29 seasons. 

“I think he’s between wrestling and football, he’s just one of the greatest coaches we’ve had in Indiana,” Mater Dei Athletic Director Joe Herrmann said. “I enjoyed watching him coach wrestling really as much as anything. He was so driven and he was so intense. But the kids respected him. And we always say, kids would run through a brick wall for him. And honestly, they would. That’s how he was. They did not want to let him down because they knew how much it meant to him too.”

Goebel earned over 500 wins in his 29 seasons at the helm of the Mater Dei wrestling program. 

Coming from a large westside Catholic family, Goebel completed his schooling at Mater Dei, all while competing on the football and wrestling teams. Goebel said he learned from his coaches both in his time as an athlete and also as an assistant coach. 

Goebel appreciates the challenges of coaching both football and wrestling, which he said are different challenges. He likes the “chess playing role in football.” Goebel credited his assistant coaches for their role in the football team’s success on the field. Some of Goebel’s assistant coaches have coached with him for 30 years, he said. 

“I think all the time that goes in, the strategy, the long hours and the games Friday night, there’s nothing like it,” Goebel said. “The atmosphere. We get to play in the Reitz Bowl and we play a pretty heavy level of competition. As does everyone in the conference. Memorial as well. But football, that’s strategy. Wrestling, it’s more a 1-on-1 sport.”

Herrmann, who is planning to retire prior to the start of next school year, feels “very fortunate” he was able to work with Goebel for the past 20-plus years. Herrmann thinks Goebel has found success in part because he is driven to succeed and does not like to lose. Hermann also stressed the quality coaching staffs Goebel has put together in his time at the helm of the Mater Dei program. 

“He’s got good assistant coaches,” Herrmann said. “But that’s a credit to him. First of all, he’s smart enough to find good assistants. And second off, he allows them to coach. Not every head coach can do that. They just sometimes can’t because of their ego, they can’t allow that to happen. But he does. And he’s very successful with it.”