By Gary Abbott
36 years is a long time for anyone to be doing anything.
When asked, Bruce Baumgartner, a Distinguished Member inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2002, said that he has been with his wife Linda longer than that. The conversation came up, mainly because today is the day that wrestling hero Bruce Baumgartner retires after over 36 years working for Edinboro University.
His resume shows four different jobs at the university, each with its own set of challenges and achievements.
1984 – Hired as assistant wrestling coach
1990 – Promoted to head wrestling coach
1997 – Named Director of Athletics
2018 – Appointed Assistant Vice President of University Advancement
Of course, wrestling was also a part of Bruce’s life the entire time that he has been with Edinboro. When he first accepted the job as an assistant wrestling coach to work with in-coming head coach Mike DeAnna, Baumgartner was a 23-year-old young wrestling star, trying to make his first Olympic Team. Today, as he leaves his employment with Edinboro, he is the president of USA Wrestling, helping lead the organization through the COVID-19 crisis. Even when his professional job was not specifically in wrestling, Bruce Baumgartner has always been part of USA Wrestling in some important capacity.
At the time the Edinboro opportunity came up, Baumgartner had been completing his graduate school studies at Oklahoma State, where he was serving as a graduate assistant wrestling coach and was also training for a shot at the Olympic Games.
“In March of 1984, I had the opportunity to train up in Iowa for the Olympics, and I met Mike DeAnna. He said he had taken a position at Edinboro University, where they are starting a Div. I wrestling program. It was a Div. II program when we first got here. We had a 0-11 record the year before we got to Edinboro. I went to the World Cup in March and drove out to Edinboro. We liked it, and it had some opportunity. I wanted to be part of a program to grow a program and help make a difference in athletes’ lives and make a change,” said Baumgartner.
Baumgartner accepted the job, then went through the process of making the 1984 Olympic Team. After training with the team, he went to Los Angeles where he won the Olympic gold medal at super heavyweight in men’s freestyle. Baumgartner worked with DeAnna doing a lot of recruiting and organizing by phone during that Olympic year while on the road. He did not move from Stillwater, Okla. to Edinboro, Pa. fulltime until after winning that Olympic gold medal. From there, DeAnna, Baumgartner and a grad assist went to work building the Scotsmen program.
“Mike DeAnna was a great coach, a great guy. We still talk to this day. He still supports Edinboro University wrestling. A great wrestler, great coach, awesome recruiter. He helped me in my wrestling and helped me in my coaching. He had a little bit different philosophy. Oklahoma State and Iowa had two different philosophies. He was a middle weight. I was an upper weight. I think we really complimented each other. It showed as our team grew over the years. He helped lay the foundation for what I think is one of the big success stories in Div. I wrestling,” said Baumgartner.