For the past 26 years, Ronnie James’ life has revolved around balancing family and Del City High School wrestling.
He’ll be taking a step back from one of those duties next season, as the longtime leader of the Eagles’ historic program has decided to give up his head coaching duties.
“I think it’s going to be real tough at first, but I know in my heart it’s the right time to do it,” James said. “When you spend 26 years of your life doing something you don’t just walk away and forget about it.
“The memories are great for me, especially those with my family. I had the opportunity to coach both of my sons, and both my daughters were mat maids in the program. And my wife has been the backbone standing behind me all these years. That, first and foremost, was really important to me along the way.”
During his tenure, James guided teams to district titles in four different decades, including winning dual state championships in 1989 and 1992. He coached 81 state placers, 21 state champions, eight high school All-Americans and six who went on to become All-Americans in college. James was named the Class 5A Coach of the Year in his final season.
“There’s a lot of tradition with us, and Coach James has kept the relationships tight,” said Paul Duren, who went 130-2 and won three state championships at Del City from 1998-2001 and went on to play linebacker at Oklahoma State. “He’s made it where everyone can get together a couple times a year and stay close. It’s a brotherhood with us. Wrestling for him was great. He cared about me, and I cared about him so much that it pushed me to further heights than I could’ve got to without him.”
Duren was one of several Del City wrestling alumni and supporters on hand for the program’s annual golf tournament on Friday at John Conrad Golf Course in Midwest City.