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young guys on the top of that podium.

USA Wrestler: Why did you decide to pursue a career in freestyle wrestling, and who were the individuals who helped you to achieve a world-class level of performance? McFarland: I was here when Steve Fraser was training for the Olympics. I saw first-hand what he was doing. I saw him in the room every day working towards that goal. It was in 1983 or 1984 that I went with him to the U.S. Open. That helped devel- op the aspiration for me. A lot of the guys around the Michigan room were like that, and it fueled me to want to do the same.

USA Wrestler: What are your memories from the 1986 World Championships, where you won a World silver medal? McFarland: I felt going into it that I pushed myself in training and did all the extra things I needed to do to win. I wrestled a great tournament and was aggressive. I gave up an early take- down, but then I gave up a gut wrench which put me in a hole, 3-0. I battled back. I had him completely exhausted and was coming on strong. With about 45 seconds left he took a long timeout and complained about a sore elbow. He got some rest then. I think I lost 5-4. I felt it was a good tournament, however. Fortunately, I beat him two times after that, at the World Cup and in a USA vs. Soviet Union dual meet in Florida. It was another one of those character building things that you just have to live with.

USA Wrestler: What was it like to compete against the young John Smith of Oklahoma State, who became the top competitor in your weight class and arguably the best American wrestler in history?

McFarland: John was special from an early age, and looking back, you can see why. John and I had some really great bat- tles. He was difficult to wrestle with that style of his. He had great hips and great mat awareness. I have always felt that it was great to have competed against him.

USA Wrestler: What made you decide to pursue coaching as a career?

McFarland: That was a slow process over time. Being in the sport all those years, the different people that I was exposed to had an impact on that. I just could never get it out of my blood. My mom told me early on that I would have a hard time getting away from wrestling. It has never gotten out of my veins. I love working with these young guys, helping them to reach their goals. It is very rewarding to me.

USA Wrestler: You worked as a coach with legends including Michigan’s Dale Bahr and Indiana’s Jim Humphrey. What did you learn from them which helped you become a better head coach when you had that opportunity? McFarland: I was around Dale Bahr for a long time. I was also here two years after I graduated with the Cliff Keen Wrestling Club. Dale obviously helped me with my collegiate wrestling. Dale was extremely good on the mat. I picked up a lot from him, both on the top and the bottom. Jim Humphrey was also a big influence. Jim was a great influence on my freestyle. He also helped with folkstyle, as I was an assistant with him for awhile. With Jim, I was exposed to another great coach. Both were meticulous guys, and that taught me some things as well.

USA Wrestler: Your first NCAA Div. I coaching opportunity came at Indiana, where you had success. How did this help shape you as a coach? McFarland: They really were very good years. It was good

for me to be away from Ann Arbor for awhile. I was working under Jim Humphrey and the head assistant there was Bill Scherr. We had a good working relationship. When I took over, after Jim went to take the Foxcatcher job, Bill was with me still for that first year. Bill Scherr had a huge influence on me. Bill and I were on the same page in regards to coaching. Bill had a lot of good ideas and great experiences. We worked well together.

USA Wrestler: Why did you leave the Indiana head position to return to Michigan as an assistant coach? McFarland: I felt I had a good thing at IU. Unfortunately for that, I got the call from Dale Bahr. Joe Wells took the head job at Oregon State, and we talked about me returning to Michigan. I felt I needed to go with my heart. Nothing against Indiana, but for me, Michigan was a special place. There is nothing better than going back to your alma mater to coach there. I decided I was young enough where I could be an assistant coach for awhile and I could take over the program later.

USA Wrestler: In December 1987, one of the athletes on the Michigan team, Jeff Reese, passed away while making weight. How did that incident affect you, the Michigan team, and ulti- mately the sport of wrestling? McFarland: It was a very difficult time in my life. I was there with Jeff when he passed away. It unraveled before my eyes. I still think about Jeff to this day. There were things more difficult for me to deal with. He was a wonderful kid and was on track to have a great career. Some untruths got into the media, things about who to blame. It confounded the situation. I considered getting out of coaching. You pour your heart and soul into these guys, but you never imagine something like that ever happen- ing. I had a hard time with that for a long time. You never know why that had to happen. For the sport, there are now much safer practices with weight certification which has made it a safer sport.

USA Wrestler: Why is the Big Ten so tough in wrestling, and what are the biggest challenges to finding success in such a competitive conference? McFarland: Let’s face it. Look at the history of the Big Ten. If you are in position to win the Big Ten, you can also win the NCAAs. The great thing is that the Big Ten Conference attracts kids that want to be the best. There are a lot of quality coaches in the Big Ten, and everybody wants to recruit the best kids to their programs. That makes it incredibly competitive. If you can win here, you can win it all.

USA Wrestler: You have coached a pair of two-time NCAA champions Ryan Bertin and Kellen Russell, and NCAA champi- on Steve Luke as the head coach. What was there about each of these athletes that made them such great wrestlers? McFarland: When I think about those guys, they had a com- mitment to excellence in everything they did, both in their wrestling and academically. It all stems from that commitment to excellence. They were focused and driven. That was the commonality among them. That is also what I love to see here at the University of Michigan, a place where academic and ath- letic balance is important.

USA Wrestler: Your 2005 Michigan team placed second in the NCAA Championships. What was the key to the success of that group of athletes at the most important event of the year? McFarland: This was a group of guys who were really com- mitted to their success. We had the older guys, like Ryan Bertin Continued on page 27

25 USA Wrestler

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