Longtime Oklahoma high school wrestling coach Virgil Milliron, 81, died Thursday morning in Oklahoma City.
Milliron had spent the past few days at Deaconess Hospital after suffering a stroke and developing pneumonia.
Milliron coached state championship teams in 1963 and ’64 at John Marshall, in 1966 and ’67 at U.S. Grant and in 1979 at Midwest City.
While at John Marshall, Milliron coached two future Olympians in Wayne Baughman and Wayne Wells.
Both Baughman and Wells also won national championships at the University of Oklahoma and have credited Milliron for setting them on the path to wrestling success.
“The things that Coach Milliron taught me both on the mat and off the mat have stayed with me the rest of my life,” Wells said. “He taught me to expect to win, how to win, and to be disappointed if I didn’t. He expected and demanded great things from everyone, and he made you demand great things from yourself. He had as big of an impact on me as any person in my life besides my parents.”
Wells, who wrestled at John Marshall from 1961-64, won a freestyle gold medal at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
“Not everyone liked Coach Milliron, because he was so tough,” Wells said. “But I don’t know anyone that didn’t respect him. It was the luckiest thing in my competitive life to be able to wrestle for him.”
Milliron, a Perry native, also had stints as coach at Rose State Junior College in Midwest City and spent four years at Auburn University in the 1970s, where he won a SEC championship.
“He was so good at what he did in getting everything you had out of you,” Wells said. “He never let you slide by, he always demanded the very best that you had and it was a real disappointment to both of you if he didn’t get your best from you. He was a tough guy, but I just loved him to death.”