What's Love Got to Do With It?

Legendary wrestler Wayne Baughman wants you to know something: He never liked the sport.

The philosophy of deprivation and pain has continued to drive him, even after he stopped wrestling. "I never like running, especially uphill," he says. Yet he has run the Pikes Peak Marathon, the Leadville 100 -- a one-hundred-mile run that includes about 10,000 feet of elevation gain -- and the Badwater 146-Mile run, which winds through a desert where temperatures reach well into the 100s.

"The only good thing about a swim is having it over with," he says. Yet he has finished the Ironman Triathlon, a combination of a two-mile ocean swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26-mile run.

By the time Wayne Baughman was finally permitted to quit the sport he never wanted to play -- and which he'd been trying to leave behind since he'd started it -- he had wrestled in three Olympic Games and on eight World Championship teams. He entered 25 national championship tournament events. He won sixteen of them, placed second in seven and third in two.

Wayne Baughman knows no love in the world of the 
John Johnston
Wayne Baughman knows no love in the world of the mat.

For anyone slow at math, that works out to Baughman winning two-thirds of the events he entered and never finishing out of the top three. He is still the only wrestler ever to have won national championships in the four styles of wrestling -- collegiate, freestyle, Greco-Roman and Sombo (a Russian style similar to judo).

And, despite going on to earn graduate degrees in psychotherapy and sports sciences, he never managed to get out of wrestling completely. In 1976 he coached the U.S. Olympic wrestling team. Three years later, he became head wrestling coach at the Air Force Academy.

This fall, he will begin his 25th year as the Falcons' wrestling coach. Not surprisingly, Baughman has left an astounding mark there, as well; he is currently the winningest coach in the history of the academy. This year, under Baughman's tutelage, Kevin Hoy, a heavyweight wrestler who finished only fifth in his high school state championships, came in second in the NCAAs -- the best performance for an Air Force wrestler in a quarter-century.

"Wrestling," Baughman says, "has been a much bigger part of my life than I ever imagined or wanted." Lucky us.

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