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Joe McFarland GARY ABBOTT’S MATSIDE CHAT WITH...


Joe McFarland has excelled on all levels of wrestling. A two- time Ohio high school champion, he went to the University of Michigan, where he was a two-time NCAA runner-up and four- time All-American. He next turned his attention to international freestyle, and won a World silver medal at the 1986 World Championships.


His next challenge was coaching, where he served in an


assistant role at Michigan and at Indiana. McFarland served a few seasons as the head coach at Indiana, where he coached an undefeated dual meet team and mentored NCAA champion Brian Dolph. He made the move to take the head assistant posi- tion at his alma mater under coach Dale Bahr, and when Bahr retired, he took over the Wolverine program.


In his 14 seasons at the helm, McFarland has coached three individuals to five NCAA titles and a 2005 NCAA runner-up team finish. Michigan continues to produce All-American athletes in a strong academic environment. He has also helped build the Cliff Keen Wrestling Club into one of the strongest Regional Training Centers for Olympic hopefuls in the nation. We visited with McFarland a few days before the start of competition for the 2012-13 college season.


USA Wrestler: How did you get involved in wrestling and who were your early influences? McFarland: I followed my older brother into it. We got involved at the same time, although he was two years older. We had another big family in our parish who wrestled and we fol- lowed them to wrestling. As a sixth grader, my brother could participate. In fifth grade, I went to watch, but also snuck in sometimes at the practices. I had a lot of people influence me early on. My first coach was Dale Smith, and he coached me a couple of years. He made sure I was committed to it and kept me involved. He pointed me in the right direction. He saw some- thing in me. Dale had three or four brothers who were there every workout helping us. They also helped set the tone for me. My parents were also a big influence on my life. I don’t think I’d have gotten anywhere without the way I was raised. There was discipline in our house, and we had a lot of love and support in our family. They made sure we were doing things the right way.


USA Wrestler: Tell us about your high school career, and what were the top achievements in your mind? McFarland: I was always a pretty competitive kid. In regards to my high school years, my top achievement was being a two- time individual state champion in Ohio, which is a very competi- tive state. We didn’t have a lot of outside stuff then, like they have with Ironman and other big events. I was always thinking about college. I had an older brother who wrestled at the University of Georgia. I had aspirations to compete in college. I don’t think I had thoughts about competing after that then. Kids now, with all the technology and internet, have much more infor- mation than we had then. I got a lot of my wrestling knowledge out of magazines.


USA Wrestler: Why did you choose the University of Michigan for college, and what about the program allowed you


24 USA Wrestler


Joe McFarland has enjoyed his share of success during his tenure as the head coach at Michigan.


to be so successful? McFarland: I had a great experience when I went there for my college visit. They put a lot of time into me. I felt it was a good fit for me. I liked the athletic-academic balance there. I also enjoyed the coaching staff there. There was head coach Dale Bahr and assistant Joe Wells. Steve Fraser was training and coaching there then. I was even influenced by guys like Don Behm. During my senior year, Mark Churella came back to Michigan after coaching at UNLV and he influenced me.


USA Wrestler: You were a four-time All-American in college, and two-time finalist. How do you assess your college career, considering you did not reach your goal of being an NCAA champion? McFarland: When I am reminded of it, there is frustration that I didn’t reach my goal. I poured myself into it completely. I tried to be the best I could be. Sometimes, you just have to have peace about things. There are a lot of things to be proud of, like being a four-time All-American and two-time finalist. You learn and grow from that. Now my job is to focus on getting these


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