DALLAS — The Dragon is the official emblem of Dallas High School, but Walt Markee might just make the cut as the school’s unofficial mascot.

If you live in the Polk County area, chances are you’ve heard the name Walt Markee at some point.

“I met Walt 20 years ago when he was running the Dallas Mat Club,” said Tony Olliff, head coach of the Dragons wrestling team. “He coached youth wrestling in Dallas for six to seven years back in the late ’90s and early 2000s. Once he retired from being a state trooper in 2014, I asked him to help coach at the high school.”

Now an assistant coach for the Dallas High School Dragons wrestling team, you’ll often see Walt at their wrestling meets, sitting on the floor taking photos for the teams.

He’s got a knack for reading people from his time as a police officer, and is known for taking kids on the team under his wing.

“He does a good job of reaching out to struggling kids and pulling them into the fold, so to speak,” Olliff said. “He takes coaches and wrestlers out on his commercial fishing boat, The Tunacious.”

Walt is drawn to wrestling because of his experience as a wrestler at Tillamook High School, where he drew up an impressive resume: A four-time Cowapa League Champion, a three-time undefeated state champion, and in 1978, he was a member of the Olympic Sports Festival Wrestling team. In 1980, the year of his graduation, he was the state freestyle champion as well the USA wrestling All-American “Dream Team” western regional champion.

For his senior season of track and field in 1980, he was the 100- and 200-meter district champion; he was fourth in state for the 100, third in state for the 200 and the 4x400-meter relay state champion. Also that year, he was named Athlete of the Year for THS.

Along with wrestling, and track and field, Walt participated in football and cross-country.

After high school, Walt wrestled at Oregon State University. There, he was a two-time Pac-10 champion and a one-time runner up. He was also on the Cultural Exchange Championship Team to South Africa.

He has been inducted into the Tillamook High School’s Hall of Fame.

You won’t often hear Walt talk about his time as a wrestler.

“What he does not publicize is the success he had with wrestling,” said DHS athletic director Tim Larson. “If you ask, he will tell you, but he’s not going to offer it up. It’s a pretty amazing story.”

A straight shooter, Walt isn’t afraid to tell it like it is. And with his tough-as-nails background in wrestling, he can be a little rough around the edges — until you get to talking with him.

“Walt is sort of intimidating at first, but he softens up when you get to know him,” said Ryan Bibler, a former wrestler for DHS.

“Walt is a problem-solver,” Olliff said. “He will do wonders for you if you are honest with him. He doesn’t have time for folks who aren’t.”

On top of taking photos for the wrestling team, Walt is also the district’s sports photographer, and shoots for the Perrydale School District, as well.

“He likes to get things done,” Larson said. “He’s really a good guy I like to be around. He has a lot to offer, and I have learned a lot from him.”

This wrestling season, Walt and his wife sponsored a wrestler who otherwise couldn’t afford the sport, and opened up a conversation through Facebook about sponsoring kids at the LaCreole middle and Dallas high schools; the community responded, and several other kids were also sponsored by individuals around the Polk County area.

“Dallas wrestling is lucky to have him in our corner,” Olliff said.

On a personal note

Winter sports was the first season of high school and college sports I covered when I was hired on as the sports reporter for the I-O. Totally green and nervous — having never covered sports, let alone been a reporter before, I nervously attended my first wrestling match: Districts. The perfect wrestling meet for a new reporter to cover, right? Immediately walking into that gym, I felt overwhelmed and at a loss of what to do. Where do I go? Who were the athletes I was supposed to be taking photos of? How did this all work?

Walt Markee saved my day. He helped me navigate the day-long meet, how to work my camera and who were the kids I should be paying attention to. It was Walt who introduced me to Tony Olliff, head wrestling coach at DHS, and it was Walt who I followed around like a puppy dog the rest of that day. And at the state wrestling meet the following weekend. Without him, I might have walked right out of that gym and never came back.

OK, half-joking. But he certainly has been there for me since then in different ways, including helping me take photos of the DHS and Perrydale sports teams for my sports previews.

Walt is an individual who, if you haven’t met yet, you should try and do so.

Thanks Walt for all that you do.

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