Lightner enjoys opportunity to return home

Posted in: Sports
By Todd Brooks
Jul 31, 2014 - 8:52:48 AM

Michael Lightner is just one of a handful of former Marlow Outlaw athletes who can say they are featured in the school’s trophy case at the high school basketball gym.
“I don’t know if I deserve to be in there with those other people,” Lightner said. “I take a lot of pride in being an Outlaw. I can say it’s an honor.”
Lightner, a 1996 MHS graduate, left the school with many accolades. He was all-state, all-American, 1996 Oklahoma Outstanding Wrestler, and a four-time state champion.
His success followed him to the University of Oklahoma, where he was four-time NCAA Wrestling All-American, a four-time Big 12 Wrestling Champion, and the 2001 NCAA national champion at 140 pounds, where he finished with a 37-0 record on the season.
Lightner was back in Marlow to help out with Marlow’s wrestling camp last week.
UFC welterweight champion Johny Hendricks was the featured coach on Monday, while Lightner was at the camp on Tuesday.
The University of Oklahoma assistant wrestling coach was scheduled to be at the camp Tuesday and Wednesday, but because of his job, his scheduled changed. He was preparing to leave Wednesday to go to junior nationals in Fargo, N.D. when he took time out for a phone interview.
Such is the life of a college coach who may have to travel to a different part of the country on short notice.
“I don’t get to come back to Marlow as much as I would like, because wrestling is a year-round sport,” Lightner said.
Still, he was happy to get back to his roots.
“I think it was a huge success,” Lightner said. “We had 100-plus kids in camp. I think it is huge to be able to do something like this in Marlow. Shawn (Bateman), Keith (Kizarr), and Kelly (Henderson) do such a great job. I really appreciate them. Marlow has such a proud tradition.”
Lightner fell in love with the sport at an early age, and the love is still there.
“The thing about wrestling is it is a blue-collar sport,” Lightner said. “Your success depends on how much you put into it. In wrestling, there is no one to hide behind. You can’t rely on someone else, you have to do it yourself.  There are no excuses in wrestling. It’s not on a coach, it’s all on you.”
Even though he has stayed in the sport, there is definitely a difference.
“When you wrestle, you just have to worry about yourself, but when you coach you have to worry about everybody,” Lightner said.
After completing college, Lightner went on to wrestle internationally for seven years, including the Olympic trials, but he did not make the team. His days of competitive wrestling ended after 25 years.
He began his coaching career at OU in 2009.
Lightner found out during his career it takes a lot of dedication to reach a high level of success.
“We put in a lot of miles when I was a kid,” Lightner said. “My parents followed me all around and made sure I had good coaching and wrestled against good competition, because that’s the only way you are going to get better.
“We went all over the state. I had a lot of great coaching and it made me better. If I it didn’t make it better, I wouldn’t have probably did it.
“You have to eat right and sacrifice your social life. You have to be ready to go.”
OU finished 10th in the nation this season. The Sooners had three all-Americans, and six academic all-Americans, the most of any other college.
“That’s important,” Lightner said. “We had student-athletes who are good on the mat, good citizens, and do well in the class room.”
Next year’s team will be young, but Lightner still thinks they can do well.