Rankin retires after stellar career

Dave Rankin

By Kyle Salomon,

Every once in awhile a person comes along who has the ability to change a high school athlete’s life.

Mustang High School is losing one of those people to retirement this year as head wrestling and girls tennis coach Dave Rankin is officially stepping down after 39 years of teaching and 30 years of coaching at the high school level.

Rankin said when he was hired to be the head wrestling coach at Mustang High School, he couldn’t have imagined how much he would love it.

“One thing teaching and coaching helps you become is adaptable. When you are out there competing as a wrestler, you have your own style, your own way of doing things. But when you are a coach, you have to be able to teach multiple styles and handle many different personalities.”

Rankin has coached many All-Americans and All-State wrestlers in his time with the Bronco grapplers. He has been responsible for three-fourths of the All-Americans and All-Staters Mustang has employed on the mat.

Rankin coached three national champion wrestlers in his career. Matt Bean was a four-time national champion, Mark Allen won the national championship two times and Tony Ellison was a two-time national title winner as well.

Rankin also was a sparring partner in the 1990s with eventual Olympic gold medalist Kendall Cross, who was a Mustang native.

“I have had the honor of being around some great people in wrestling in my career,” Rankin said. “A lot of those guys were so talented and driven, I don’t want to say it was easy coaching them, but it didn’t take a lot of motivating on my part to get them to get after it.”

Rankin said wrestling is one of the toughest sports to coach because it’s so mental.

“Wresting is like a street fight with rules. It is 80 percent mental. As a coach, you almost have to be like a psychologist out there. You have to know how a wrestler thinks and what will give him that mental edge he needs to be successful.”

Rankin was a three-time state champion at John Marshall High School where he graduated in 1970. He received a full-ride wrestling scholarship to the University of Oklahoma. Rankin helped the Sooners win a national championship on the mat in 1984.

Rankin went into coaching right after his collegiate career was completed. He started his coaching career at Moore High School as an assistant on the staff. He spent two years at Moore before being hired by Mustang as the head coach in 1977.

In his first year with the Bronco grapplers, Rankin led the team to a seventh-place finish in the state tournament. In his second season, he took them to a second-place finish and was awarded Coach of the Year in the state for wrestling.

In 2013, Rankin was selected as the Large-School West All-State wrestling coach. He led the West team to a win against the East side in a highly competitive dual.

“Getting to coach kids of that caliber was a lot of fun,” Rankin said. “I coached them like they were my own kids. It was an honor to be there. We all had that competitive spirit flowing and we wanted to come out on top in that competition.”

For the last seven years, Rankin has been the girls tennis coach for Mustang. He said coaching girls tennis following the wrestling season was like a breath of fresh air.

“The mentality is just so different. The girls are really fun to work with and they really work hard. I wish I would have coached tennis every year in my career.”

In his time as the head girls tennis coach, Rankin has led the Lady Broncos to 30 tournament victories, 15 runners-up and eight third-place finishes. The girls tennis squad has also maintained a 3.87 GPA under his watch, including winning the academic state title in 2007.

Rankin said he wants to be remembered as a coach who taught life lessons such as a great work ethic, mental control and good citizenship.

When asked what he would miss most about coaching, Rankin emphatically said one word.

“Competition. I thrived on competition, watching the kids take what they did in practice and see it turn into wins was a special feeling.”