WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Douglas made big impact
By Gary Abbott The United States had a remarkable run in men’s freestyle wrestling in the 1990s. The team won two World Team Titles, had strong Olympic efforts and crowned numerous World and Olympic champions. One of the most talented and colorful of the U.S. stars was 1993 World Champion Melvin Douglas. A native of Topeka, Kansas, Douglas followed his older brothers into wrestling, because his parents required the kids to have after-school activities. “When I first started, I didn’t want to do it. I thought it was that pro wrestling stuff, but my brothers showed me differently. I started winning medals, and put them on my jacket. I showed off to girls. I did it so I could go to college and get my educa- tion paid for. I didn’t like wrestling at all until my junior year in college.” That is ironic, because ultimately, there are few people who love the sport as much as Melvin Douglas does now. A three-time Kansas state champ, Douglas was not recruited at the Div. I level. He contacted the University of Oklahoma and suggested that they add him to the team.
“They said there were better kids than me. I asked who they were, and they told me they were at Junior Nationals. So that’s where I went. There were 100 kids in my weight and I pounded them. Coach Stan Abel started talking to my parents and my coach. The next thing you know, I’m going to OU,” said Douglas. A two-time NCAA champion for the Sooners, Douglas was surrounded by great wrestlers including Dave and Mark Schultz, Andre Metzger, Dan Chaid and others.
“They weren’t typical wrestlers. They were studs. They took me under their wing. As a freshman, Dave Schultz beat me down and said welcome to college. That got me mad and made me want to learn,” said Douglas.
Deciding he was like them was the turning point for Douglas.
“I was a sophomore, wrestling Dave or Mark. I thought that I was there for a rea- son. In my mind, I decided I was just as good. I was not taking that any more. From that point, I wrestled to beat every- body. I told myself I was that good. I turned the corner and won the NCAA that
12 USA Wrestler
Melvin Douglas captured a World title in freestyle wrestling in 1993. year,” said Douglas.
Douglas excelled in freestyle wrestling.
After college, he coached awhile at Minnesota, and went on to win a 1989 World silver medal at 82 kg on his first World Team. After that, he went down to Arizona State and with the Sunkist Kids, where he was a top star for the next decade.
His achievements put him among the best ever. He won four World medals, a 1993 World title plus 1994 and 1995 World bronzes to go with his 1989 silver. Douglas won nine national titles and was a 14-time finalist, adding golds at the Pan American Games and the Goodwill Games.
“My fondest memory is winning the
1989 Tbilisi Tournament. It was the Soviet national championship, and the best in the world were there. You had to go through them all. Only 13 Americans ever won it, and I am proud to be one of them,” he said.
Douglas also made two Olympic teams, placing seventh in 1996 in Atlanta and missing the medals in 2000 in Sydney, Australia.
“People judge you based upon the Olympics. That is a shame for me. I medaled in every tournament there is except the Olympics,” he said. Douglas had speed and athletic skill, plus the technical ability to beat anybody. “For me, it was business. That person across the mat was trying to take food from my kids. It was part of how I made a living. I always had another job, but wrestling was part of my job. It was my
way of life and I was good at it,” he said. He remembers when coach Greg
Strobel told him that he was unscoutable. “The reason is that I changed my tech- nique all the time. I never hit you with the same stuff. I was a threat at every posi- tion. That kept me on top. It is easier to win than to keep it. Once they know you, it is harder to win. I pushed myself and I made it happen. Life is 99 percent mental and the 1 percent is getting out of bed,” he said.
Douglas now works with the Mesa Public Schools, helping challenged chil- dren with behavior issues change their direction and return to the system. All three of his kids were athletes, including oldest daughter Christina who played Div. I softball at Ohio State.
Douglas loved wrestling so much he made a comeback at 40 for the 2004 Olympic Trials. He has never left, keeping active as a coach on the youth and Senior levels.
Douglas coaches with the Sunkist Kids Academy in Phoenix.
“I love the sport. I am teaching kids.
We have the No. 1 freestyle team in Arizona. I am trying to pass the sport on, sharing what I have. I tell them I can help make them a state champion, get them to believe and teach them to like the sport,” he said. Wrestling remains a passion, and now it is all about giving back.
“Anytime that anyone asks for knowl- edge, I will do it. I was successful and I could help them. I know what it is like,” he said.
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