Photos special to Bison Illustrated
Longtime head coach Bucky Maughan used his 47 years at NDSU to build and sustain a winning culture.
You cannot speak of NDSU wrestling without mentioning Bucky Maughan in the same sentence. Maughan, a legendary figure in not only Bison wrestling, but NDSU athletics as a whole, was the third coach in program history. Taking the helm from Tom Nueberger before the 1964 season, Maughan made an immediate impact. By 1971, he had not only produced NDSU’s first national champion but two in the same year (Bob Backlund and Bill Demaray).
That began a sequence of wrestling greatness that has gone unmatched across any program in the nation. Maughan would go on to coach 30 national champions on an individual level. He also guided the Bison to four national titles at the Division II level, including a stretch of three titles in four years from 1997-2001.
Perhaps an even greater accomplishment, Maughan led the Bison through the transition to Division I competition in 2004. Competing in the Western Wrestling Conference, Maughan had five wrestlers qualify for the Division I championships in his time at the top level of collegiate wrestling. Retiring in 2011, Maughan was succeeded by Roger Kish, who had been an assistant at NDSU the two years prior. Kish, who was a two-time All-American and Division I national runner-up at the University of Minnesota, remains the head coach today, going into his eighth season in 2018-19.
“A guy like Bucky manages relationships, builds relationships, you just learn so much being around him and the way he handles himself. That goes a long way,” Kish said. “The things that Bucky was able to accomplish off the wrestling mats, building relationships and things in his recruiting style and how he led the team. A lot of it is learned from just watching. For just this little frame of a guy to come in and control a room is pretty unique.”
When he was hired in 1964, then-athletic director Darrell Mudra, indicated that hiring Maughan would “eliminate a weak area in the Bison program.” To say he eliminated this “weak area” would be an understatement. If Bison wrestling were a sinking boat, he filled the holes and stocked the ship with rations, reserves and spare parts. So much so that his fingerprints are still all over the program.
If Bucky Maughan does not exist, NDSU wrestling does not end up in the Big 12 conference. Roger Kish is not able to bring in highly-touted recruits year after year without, in part, Bucky’s foundation. It’s the foundation he laid in 1964, from which he built a skyscraper that is Bison wrestling. They became a program schools wanted to become because of Maughan.
Known for being a motivator by many of his wrestlers, Maughan lived and breathed wrestling. “Wrestling for Bucky was that he had the old school mentality on wrestling,” Adam Aho told us back in July. Aho wrestled for Maughan in the later stages of his career (2004-2009). “He wanted to work harder than everyone else and that sort of philosophy. That motivated me and instilled that work ethic.”
Several will say the same about Bucky Maughan. Clearly, his style of coaching worked given the success he and his wrestlers had. 23 wrestlers have been inducted into the Bison Athletic Hall of Fame as of 2018. Every single one was coached by Maughan. For many, Maughan was the inspiration for making coaching their career as well. Both Aho and recent Bison Athletic Hall of Fame inductee Kris Nelson have had success as head coaches at the Division II level (Aho at the University of Mary and Nelson at Minnesota State University Moorhead). In Nelson’s case, much of that can be attributed to being Maughan’s assistant for nine seasons at NDSU. Those are just two of the coaching successes that have been direct results of Maughan.
Even Maughan’s own son, Jack, was a successful collegiate coach. Now the Senior Associate Director of Athletics for Development at NDSU, Maughan was the head wrestling coach at Northern Colorado for 22 years. Maughan’s other son, Bret, was an assistant at NDSU and is now head wrestling coach at Fargo North High School. Both Maughan sons were All-American wrestlers for their father too. Safe to say, it runs in the family.
Those are just a few of the lives touched by Bucky Maughan. It all factors into the tremendous legacy Maughan left behind at NDSU. One that is still felt in the program today. Without Bucky Maughan, who knows what would have become of Bison wrestling. Luckily, NDSU had him for nearly five decades. What ensued in his tenure was the creation of a tradition and a commitment to excellence. That mindset was adopted by Maughan’s teams and is still endorsed by Roger Kish’s teams. To date, there is no bigger influence on the wrestling program than Bucky Maughan. For that, generations of Bison wrestlers to come will forever be indebted to him.
- NDSU head wrestling coach from 1967-2011 (47 seasons)
- Bison Athletic Hall of Fame (Class of 2011)
- National Wrestling Hall of Fame (Class of 2011)
- Pennsylvania Wrestling Hall of Fame
- NAIA Wrestling Hall of Fame
- NCAA Division II Wrestling Hall of Fame
- NSIC Hall of Fame
- Minnesota State Moorhead Dragon Hall of Fame
- Four Division II national championships (1988, 1998, 2000, 2001)
- Coached 21 wrestlers to 30 Division II individual national championships.
- 17 North Central Conference titles (nine straight from 1982-1990)
- Coached 88 North Central Conference individual champions
- Coached five Western Wrestling Conference champions
- Career record of 467-157-13 at NDSU (winningest in school history).
- Led NDSU to three undefeated seasons in 1984-85, 1991-92 and 2003-04.
- Two-time NAIA national champion wrestler at Minnesota State Moorhead in 1962 and 1963.
- 1963 Division I national champion at 115 pounds.