Wrestling legend Wayne Baughman is a 16-time national champion and the only wrestler to claim a national championship in four recognized styles — collegiate, freestyle, Greco-Roman, and Sambo.
Baughman, who is a John Marshall and OU graduate, participated in five consecutive Olympic Games — three as a competitor (1964, 1968, and 1972) and two as a coach (1976 and 1980). He was also a member of a combined 13 World Championship teams as a competitor and coach. He retired from coaching in 2007 after 27 years as head coach at the Air Force Academy.
Baughman became an ultra-endurance athlete after retiring from wrestling competition, and has served on several decision-making committees for wrestling. Baughman was inducted in the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame in August.
I really believe wrestlers can do about anything they decide they want to do. I'm talking about things that involve endurance and toughness. I think we have the highest pain tolerance and the most mental discipline of any other sport. Wrestling people are special.
I'm normally a pessimist, but I'm cautiously optimistic wrestling will be back in the Olympics. Wrestling has done everything right it needed to do to get back in. The thing that scares me is baseball and softball have a lot of money behind them and that can go a long way if they want it to. Wrestling has a lot more participants worldwide than any of the other sports it's competing against.
I think (former Nebraska wrestler) Jordan Burroughs is on the cusp of becoming one of the superheroes in wrestling history. I think Wayne Wells, Dan Gable, and John Smith are the superheroes of American wrestling because they could just dominate their weight class. Burroughs is the closest thing we have today to joining that class of wrestler.
I'm kind of a contradiction as far as wrestling is concerned. My whole thing in sports was to be a football player and I was fairly good at basketball in junior high. I went out for basketball again my sophomore year at John Marshall and got in a fight on the court. My coach got really upset with me and told me “if you think you're that tough, go out for wrestling.” So I got started later than most.
I had great coaches in high school and college. Virgil Milliron was my coach in high school and I had Port Robertson and Tommy Evans at OU. All of those guys are great, legendary coaches and I really learned a lot from them. Tommy had refereed a lot of my matches in high school and that's why he recruited me to Oklahoma. He was my hero, mentor, role model and friend.
My whole life has been wrestling when I never intended for it to be that way. That shows we don't always control our destiny. Of course, wrestling is a sport that selects you more than you select it sometimes and I think that's special. It's a closer-knit family than other sports. We're a family, a fraternity, a brotherhood, and sometimes maybe a mafia.
Going into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame was very special to me. I'm not convinced I deserved it at all, particularly when you look at the great people who are in there. So many of my heroes have been inducted, and that makes it a great honor.
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