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Gary Abbott blog on Joe Seay

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I thought he summed it up nicely with the phrase:  "With Joe as a freestyle coach, it was never about himself. It was all about helping athletes."

Seay always struck me as a guy who made things happen at all levels because he was so good at connecting with athletes and convincing them that they could win under him, regardless of the circumstances.


"Seay, 42, a former national 149.5-pound champ from Wellington, Kans., started the school's wrestling program in 1972 with such limited funds that his team had to train in a science lab and his wife had to do all the wrestlers' laundry. Even now the school lacks a weight room and has a pitifully tiny wrestling room and so few wrestling scholarships that Seay, an exceptional coach, has to recruit athletes impoverished enough to qualify for general scholarships, which is what Gonzales had. "The school thinks they could throw us out onto the grass and we'd still win," says 158-pound senior Perry Shea, who's one of the four Division II champions on this year's team. "They're probably right."   Cal State Bakersfield has won six of the last seven Division II team titles and finished in the top 10 of Division I for five years in a row." 


In his book Foxcatcher, Mark Schultz notes that after things didn't work out for him and Dave at Oklahoma State and UCLA, they considered wrestling for Seay at CSB:

"...on the way [to Oklahoma], we stopped at California State Bakersfield, where a friend of ours, Joe Seay, was the coach.  Joe tried to talk us into ending our trip and wrestling for him.  Joe was building one of the best teams in the country and his offer was enticing, but the wrestling room was the smallest I had seen, with room for only one mat.  I could not imagine how an entire team trained in there."

It was unfortunate how things ended for him at Oklahoma State, for a man who loved the sport as much as anyone out there.  I think that the rivalry between OSU and Iowa back in the 80s and 90s was as good as it was largely because of his efforts.

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The only major thing about Seay I knew was the suspension/termination.  Reading some of his bios online, he achieved so much more in and for wrestling I don’t see how, on balance, he didn’t give more than he took. I was very impressed.

The infraction I read about was giving an incoming athlete a summer camp job rather than after his first year, then not telling the NCAA about it.  While “NCAA illegal” I’ve seen worse.

There are other non-infraction acts by coaches I think are worse.

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One of the few people he had an ongoing feud with was Gable.  Always a thorn in his side:


"...After Seay coached a U.S. team to a tie on points with the favored Soviets in the 1986 World Cup competition, he remembers Kathy Gable telling him, "You did a good job here, but you'll never beat Iowa and Dan." Seay wrote those words down. "I stuck it on the wall above the toilet," said Seay last Saturday. "My response to her was 'Never's a long time.' I guess 'never' is today."



"...Though Arizona State entered this year's championships as the favorite, for Seay only one opponent truly mattered. "We have outrecruited Iowa for the last three or four years," Seay boasted before the hostilities commenced last week at Maryland's Cole Field House. "That's because there no longer is a single reason to go to Iowa instead of Oklahoma State. Wrestlers look at us and say, 'Somebody there must be doing something right.' "

Until last year, Gable had the upper hand in this rivalry, which began in 1972. Back then, as an Iowa State 149½-pounder, he defeated Seay in the finals of the Olympic trials. As a coach, Seay has continued to resent playing second fiddle to Gable, in the recruiting wars and in the politics of the sport. Says Gable, who coached Iowa to nine consecutive NCAA titles, beginning in 1978, "He lives his life, I live mine."


He publicly criticized the Brands brothers because of their brawling style of wrestling, and Gable simply responded that he wouldn't tell his athletes to be less aggressive, and that other coaches were simply jealous of their success.

Despite all this, I recall seeing Seay at the Midlands in the late 90s after he was out of coaching.  He was trying to enjoy watching the competition, but kept running into countless wrestlers and coaches that came up to say hello.  

Among them were both Brands brothers, and seeing them together was like seeing long lost friends!  I'm sure he worked with them on many world level teams, and probably improved their relationship over time.  He truly had a unique approach to coaching.  

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