Aug. 27, 2009
NORMAN, Okla. – University of Oklahoma head wrestling coach Jack Spates announced the hiring of Michael Lightner as assistant coach Thursday.
“It is with great joy that I announce the official hiring of Michael Lightner,” Spates said. “He will make a tremendous addition to our staff. His passion for our great sport, our student-athletes and this university is going to have a great impact on our program. ”
Lightner served as volunteer assistant last season with the Sooners and club coach in 2007. His new duties include recruiting for the program, directing the Oklahoma Open and summer camps, as well as training and instructing current Sooner wrestlers.
A product of Marlow, Okla., Lightner recorded one of the most impressive wrestling careers in Oklahoma history from 1998-2001. He claimed the national title in 2001 and was four times crowned Big 12 champion at 141 pounds.
Lightner became a four-time All-American, an honor only nine others in school history have claimed. He can be found in various school records, including second in career wins with a 144-16 record. His 37-0 record his senior season led him to the national title and he became the 13th Sooner to go undefeated in a season.
“I loved my time here at OU and am excited to have a bigger role in the program,” Lightner said. “I am excited to step in and help bring the program back to national prominence. This staff’s goal is to lead OU to its first national title since 1974.”
Wrestling at Marlow High School, Lightner recorded a 130-1 overall record, capturing the state title all four years. The four-year letterman also claimed second at Junior Nationals.
After his career with the Sooners, Lightner remained at OU as a club coach from 2001-2004 while training for international competition. During that three year stint, Oklahoma won the Big 12 conference title in 2002, claimed seven individual conference champions, 17 All-Americans and three national champions.
In 2005 Lightner moved to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., to focus on his international wrestling career. In 2005 he was crowned champion at U.S. Nationals and the World Team Trials and was named as a World Team member. The following year he was runner-up at U.S. Nationals and placed second at the U.S. World Team Trials.
He is married to his wife of two years, Lindsey.
Also joining the Sooner program as volunteer assistant coach is Ross Thatcher. He joins the OU staff after a four year stint as assistant coach at Ohio State from 2004-2008.
A three-time finalist and twice an Ohio state champion wrestling for Bishop Ready High School in Columbus, Ohio, Thatcher wrestled collegiately for Penn-State and was a four-time letter winner. In 2000, he was named team captain and capped off his career by garnering All-America honors.
Following his career at PSU, Thatcher wrestled for the New York Athletic Club, where he was a two-time Sunkist International Open champion, crowned champion at the New York Athletic Club International Open, was a Dave Schultz International Open champion and was named Northeast Regional Outstanding Wrestler and champion.
Additionally, he was a Bronze medalist for the 2001 U.S. Pan-American team and was a member of the U.S. World University Games Freestyle and Greco Roman squads.
In 2000, Thatcher began his coaching career at his alma mater, serving as assistant from 2000-2003 for Penn State.
Recently, he assisted World Team member and Olympic alternate Tommy Rowlands and has been active with USA Wrestling, serving as assistant coach for the 2006 USA Junior Fila world team. Overall, Thatcher has assisted in coaching 23 All-Americans, five national finalists and three NCAA champions.
Thatcher is known for establishing some of the premier kid’s club programs in the country with the Nittany Lion Kids Club and the Buckeye Wrestling Club. He is committed to initiating a kid’s club program to Norman to benefit the surrounding community. Thirteen kids Thatcher has mentored in the past are currently wrestling at the collegiate level.
With a Bachelor of Science degree in the college of health and human development, Thatcher arrives in Norman with his wife, Jen, and six-month-old daughter, Emma.