March 29, 2012
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Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
ST. LOUIS — University of Iowa alumna Mary Berdo is becoming a fixture at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, even though her sport of choice as a Hawkeye was basketball.
For the past 2 ½ years, Berdo has worked for the NCAA as assistant director of championships. Wrestling is one of four sports she supervises; along with Division I field hockey, volleyball and women’s tennis.
Around Iowa City, Berdo is best known for her years as a women’s basketball player, scoring 457 points in three seasons. As a senior in 2001 — the first year for current head coach Lisa Bluder and her staff — the Hawkeyes compiled a record of 21-10 (12-4 in the Big Ten Conference) and won the Big Ten Tournament. In the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Iowa defeated Oregon, 89-82, in overtime. The Hawkeyes fell in the second round, 78-69, to Utah.
“I have a lot of memories with my teammates,” Berdo said. “We had a great run my senior year and that will always hold a special spot in my heart.”
Berdo was one of the best prep shooters for Washington (Iowa) High School from 1993-96, guiding the Demons to a pair of state tournament appearances. She was the first Iowa prep to score 2,000 career points in the five-player era (finishing with 2,026 before accepting a scholarship from Angie Lee at the UI). Berdo, a guard, made her first shot as a collegian — a 3-pointer — then added 83 more treys during a 79-game career. For two seasons from 1997-99, Berdo took a break from competitive basketball. She returned as a junior in 1999-2000, averaging 4.4 points a game and shooting nearly 86 percent from the free throw line. As a senior, Berdo set personal records for field goals (79), 3-point field goals (44), free throws (59), rebounds (61), assists (74), steals (34), blocks (10), points (251) and scoring average (8.1).
“I still keep very close tabs on the Iowa women,” Berdo said. “Lisa Bluder and her crew were my coaches my senior year, so obviously they’re all really good friends now. I definitely check the box score when I don’t get them on the Big Ten Network or ESPN. I’m a very close supporter, a close friend of the group.”
It was not a difficult adjustment for Berdo to play one season under Bluder.
“Coach Bluder and her staff warmed up to our group,” Berdo said. “We bought into the system and had a great run. Obviously we lost a little earlier than we wanted, but it was a great experience, and to go out my senior year and make the tournament and win a Big Ten championship meant a lot.”
After graduating from the UI, Berdo earned a master’s degree in sport administration from Wisconsin-LaCrosse. She spent 5 ½ years working in the University of Michigan athletics department, with a focus on events and championships.
“I wanted to have sports as part of my life for the rest of my life,” Berdo said.
Berdo said her time at the University of Iowa equipped her well for the future.
“It basically made me who I am,” she said. “There were such good mentors in my classes and being an athlete. They took the time to take me under their wings and make me a better person, challenge me, and prepare me for the real world. My experience at Iowa is the reason I’m sitting here and I’m grateful for the folks in my life that I stay in touch with.” As an employee of the NCAA, Berdo remains neutral when a Hawkeye is on the mat at nationals. Still, she relishes the fan support the UI wrestlers receive.
“There are so many Iowa fans that come down, especially when (nationals) is in St. Louis,” Berdo said. “It’s great to see Iowa supported. It’s my home state, it’s where I went to high school, and obviously it will always mean a lot to me.”