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fight as a seventh-grade kid. I asked him if he wanted to do that, but not get into trouble. I got him to try wrestling. He is tal- ented, hard working and has a great personality. He will do any- thing for anybody. He grew into a great man. He was the best one. There was the time when my son Zach wrestled at OU and Tyrone was at Oklahoma State. They would come and work out with my team. It was a bloodbath. They would beat each other up. They wrestled all over the room. They are still very close friends.

USA Wrestler: Why is the wrestling so good in a small state like Oklahoma? Randall: It’s the long-time tradition. Most of the time, you see coaches in Oklahoma who have been through the system in both high school and college. They are very good coaches. The tradition is big. The kids believe in it. We have only 140 schools, but we can compete with Ohio and all the big states. We have OSU and OU here, and UCO is near the top of their division. We hope to do the same at OCU with our team.

USA Wrestler: How did the coaching opportunity at Oklahoma City University occur? Randall: They were looking to expand. At the time, they wanted to go Div. I. They had to add athletic teams. With Div. I, they wanted their name on the scroll on ESPN. Jim Abbott, the athletic director, is a sharp guy. He asked what he could add that they could be successful at. The answer was wrestling. They could do it with Oklahoma kids. For the job, I got endorsed by John Smith and Jack Spates. They had like 35 applicants but I got the job. It was an opportunity to start my own program from scratch. They wanted me to quit my high school job in January, but I was not going to leave my team at midseason. They worked a deal where I’d work a half day at my school and a half day at OCU. I didn’t start recruiting until March and April. That first team was bad. We developed from there. This year, we had a good season. We will be in the hunt every year from now on.

USA Wrestler: Why is wrestling growing so quickly within the

NAIA program? Randall: The NAIA is exploding because the schools are tuition driven. The only bad thing is that the schools have differ- ent academic qualifications and standards. Our academic stan- dards are very high at OCU. As the bigger programs have dropped, the NAIA has grown. At a school with 1,500 kids, 30- 50 athletes makes a lot of difference at that school. There are a lot of wrestlers out there. If you look at our division at the top eight in each weight, there are usually Div. I or Div. II kids who ended up at NAIA for some reason. The tournament is a meat grinder now. With our qualification system now, with five or six good kids, you are in the Top 10. It will be tougher to win this going forward. The growth has been tuition driven.

USA Wrestler: Why did OCU start a women’s varsity team? Randall: It’s a different philosophy, a different group. We are a private school. They asked how they could get more students. I said I could get 30 kids in with a women’s team. They let me go anywhere I wanted nationally to recruit for the women’s team. I brought in a good class that first year, and it took off from there. I also brought in Coach Link Davis that first year to coach the women. I wanted to put my best coach in there right from the start. He now focuses on the women, and helps with the heavier weights on the men’s team.

USA Wrestler: Why is women’s college wrestling also grow- ing?

Randall: It is because of the success of the programs we have now, plus we are getting noticed nationally. The girls are good students. They aren’t behavior problems. The sport is becoming more popular. Plus, it’s freestyle. It’s easy to watch for the fans. You don’t have to know all those rules like in folkstyle. You throw them, you get points, you turn them, you get more points. It’s easier, it’s faster, it’s more exciting. For the girl high school wrestlers, there are more opportunities. The competition is tough now to get the good kids. We need one organization to officially recognize it. We need 12 programs with the NAIA. The Div. II schools are trying to get it done with the NCAA. When that happens, it will grow. That will trickle down to the high school level, and you will see more states with official state recognition.

USA Wrestler: Is there a difference between coaching the men and the women? Randall: There is a difference. We do everything the same technically with the two teams. It is the mental aspects that dif- fer. Women are more serious, and there is more to watch for. At times, they are more emotional. Both groups are driven to be successful. The women take things literally. You approach things a bit differently. Our women’s program is technically and physi- cally strong. We work on the mental aspect more. Women like to talk a lot more. You never ask, are there any questions? The guys just leave and go to the showers. With the women, you could be there for days. In practice, we take 10 minutes for ask a question – answer a question. They identify a problem and discuss it with each other. They solve the problem together.

USA Wrestler: You have run many major national USA

Wrestling events over the years. Why are you so involved as an event director? Randall: I think it is important to have quality events for ath- letes. I was a college coach, high school coach, junior high and kids coach. It is all about exposure for the athletes. If you do a quality event, it enforces the fact that our sport is important. We want to have award stands and to highlight the finals. We must constantly do that for the sport. You make sure you have the spotlight. It is about how we put 40 pound little girl wrestlers on the big college mat. How exciting is that for their parents? We create an atmosphere where its exciting and memorable. It’s not all about winning. Whatever event we do, we try to do our best. We want them to leave with a great experience.

USA Wrestler: The Junior National Duals has grown in size and prestige. How has that event gotten so successful? Randall: The Junior Duals run so smoothly. We have the same coaches, same officials, same people come back every year. It leaves you with a good taste in your mouth. We adapt every year to meet the needs of the coaches, athletes and fans.

USA Wrestler: Is there a limit on how much USA Wrestling can impact the sport? Randall: I think there is no limit for USA Wrestling to impact athletes. USA Wrestling is going in the right direction. The involvement in the grassroots is tremendous. That is the secret to success. You still must focus on creating events to benefit athletes, coaches and fans. Don’t forget any of the three of them. As long as USA Wrestling impacts those areas, there will be more success. Success breeds success. As long as USA Wrestling is focused on what is right, it will grow. As long as I have been involved, USA Wrestling has done what’s right. Sometimes we don’t agree in our leadership meetings, but we usually do what’s right.

25 USA Wrestler

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