By Lucy Frost-Helms, Copy editor
Coach Daniel Ownbey, the University of Montevallo’s first men’s wrestling coach in its history, carries a trove of achievements. For example, he is a four-time All-American wrestling national champion. He also won one hundred and ten out of one hundred and eleven wrestling matches in his senior year of high school. But, despite his wide array of awards, he hopes to cultivate a community that is focused on support for his athletes.
Ownbey, originally from Asheville, N.C., was first introduced to wrestling in the second grade by his dad, who took him to a wrestling gym to watch a practice.
“I wrestled for two years but unfortunately I broke my arm and was out of sports for a couple of years,” he said.
His recovery was preceded by a two-week hospital stay, eight surgeries and two years of metal plates and screws in his arm. This didn’t stop Ownbey from wrestling, though.
Dan Gable, an American professional wrestler, came to Ownbey’s hometown to do a wrestling clinic while he was in the fifth grade, right at the time that he was able to play sports again. Ownbey attended the clinic and has been wrestling ever since.
“Ever since then I’ve fallen in love with the sport,” he said.
Aside from his own successful wrestling career, Ownbey was the head coach of men’s wrestling at Wheeling University in Wheeling, W.Va. and assistant coach at Newberry College in Newberry, S.C. Now the head coach of men’s wrestling at UM, Ownbey is excited to bring more wrestling to the South.
Ownbey said, “I’m not from Alabama, but being from North Carolina, wrestling in the southeast is still growing and we’d be the first Division II school in the state of Alabama. So, just the idea of growing the sport back down here is a great appeal.”
“Wrestling for your home state has a certain amount of pride,” he added.
So far this season, Ownbey is enjoying the support he is receiving from campus, especially from Mark Richard, UM’s Athletic Director, and Dr. John Stewart, UM’s president. When asked what he is most looking forward to this season, Ownbey responded, “Packing out the SAC. I want to get it to where it’s standing room only.”
For someone who has never watched wrestling or is curious about the sport, Ownbey says, “Just know that it’s going to be an exciting event. I know a lot of people don’t know a lot about wrestling, however, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not that hard to follow. It’s got a lot of excitement to it, it’s got a lot of quick action, a lot of big slams, if people are into that.”
Support for the wrestling team is extremely important to Ownbey. He said, “What I love about Division II is that every single student athlete matters. No matter if you’re the four-time All-American superstar or whether you’re the kid who’s the superstar in the classroom making a 4.0, every single kid matters and every single kid can help your program get better, no matter if it’s on or off the mat.”
Ownbey also values the input from his team, saying, ”Being a brand new program, and yes, I’m the head coach and this is technically, quote, my program; however, it’s just as much their program as it is mine.”
For those interested in wrestling at UM, Ownbey said, “The quicker you buy in, the better you’re going to be. Whether it’s buying into the coaching style or buying into our academic expectations, the quicker you buy into your coaches, the sky’s the limit on how good you can be or how fun your experience at the university will be.”
Coach Ownbey had one more thing to say: “Go Falcons!”
Lucy Frost-Helms is the copy editor of The Alabamian. She’s majoring in social science and minoring in philosophy. She enjoys being a goober, eating chicken salad for breakfast, watching “National Treasure” and telling you that she will “definitely pay you back for that.” Lucy has the worst memory of all time and will forget major, important details of stories you tell her.