Photos courtesy of NDSU Athletics
From his office at the University of Northwestern Ohio, sports guru and former Bison, Rick Goeb, took a moment to look back at the world of Division II wrestling at NDSU. In 1988, the championship program he helped christen was on the brink of glory.
With a 25th year reunion in his personal record book, Rick Goeb has witnessed NDSU wrestling maintain its edge in Division I, ranking this year in the Top 25 by the USA Today/National Wrestling Association Coaches Poll. Just like the trajectory of his career in university athletics, the present-day Bison program is anchored by over half a century of head coach Bucky Maughan’s influence in Fargo.
“Championship teams stay together, they have a common bond and they’ll always share that,” Goeb explained about the connection he still shares with former teammates. Since the 1988 Bison national championship, he has crisscrossed the North American continent to pursue his coaching career and earned his master’s and doctorate degrees along the way. Goeb was also an esteemed member of the 2009 class honored in the Bison Athletic Hall of Fame.
“When I got into coaching, I learned a lot from Bucky Maughan—a legendary coach,” Goeb said about his time as an assistant wrestling coach at NDSU in 1989. “What he poured into his athletes was amazing. The discipline and how he was able to motivate was inspirational. I carry a lot of those philosophies with me today.”
At the turn of the decade, Goeb made his first big leap away from the Herd, but he wasn’t alone. He worked under Bucky Maughan’s son, Jack, as assistant wrestling and strength coach for the University of Northern Colorado.
“I lived with Jack at Northern Colorado and did my graduate work out there. Northern Colorado became a powerhouse in wrestling with a number of individuals who went on to be national champions,” said Goeb. “Then I was able to take over my own program and build up St. Cloud State. Although it was a short time that I was there, it was still a lot of fun bringing in some top-notch recruits.”
Back on the Red River, Goeb got his Ph.D. from the University of North Dakota before making another career move to the University of Alaska Fairbanks. What was intended to be a chance for experience turned into more than five years of tackling different positions that pushed his expertise into new sports like basketball, ice hockey, skiing and rifle.
“Getting my newlywed wife (Carol) to agree at the time wasn’t the easiest, but we did,” chuckled Goeb. Already living close to the Canadian border in Grand Forks, North Dakota, it was unthinkable for the new couple to move any farther north, but they did. Pulling their belongings in a trailer, they drove up the scenic Alaska Highway to begin five years of life far from the continental United States.
From Alaska, he took on the role of athletic director at Bemidji State University in Minnesota. In his 12 years at Bemidji, Goeb helped upgrade the hockey program with a multi-million dollar facility called the Sanford Center.
“We were able to take the program to the next level,” Goeb said. “It’s a great place to play and just beautiful. I was able to help with that, and to get Bemidji State into the WCHA, which is one of the top conferences in hockey.”
Naturally, the northern lifestyle of outdoor adventure rubbed off on the budding family, which had grown by three members—Amber, Anna and Jordan—by the time Goeb’s career brought him to Minnesota.
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“When you’re up north in that country there’s a lot of hockey talk and kids who start playing at a young age, so that was an opportunity for him (Jordan) to get into it,” said Goeb about son Jordan a sophomore playing varsity hockey and golf. “That fit him better than wrestling did, and that’s what his friends were doing.”
After overseeing Bemidji State’s 15 total men’s and women’s athletic programs, the ambitious entrepreneur ventured into athletic consulting and started a private company called Rgoeb Sportswide.
His ability to mold fierce athletes in the wrestling ring evolved into building smart students in the classroom, when he moved to Lima, Ohio, for his present position at the University of Northwestern Ohio.
Breaking New Ground
As an assistant professor for sports marketing and management, Goeb is passing on his athletic insights and teaching the mantras he learned during his formative years as part of the Herd.
“I’ve been on the athletic side and the academic side, and you spend so much time as a coach with your athletes, more than you do as a professor,” Goeb said. “There’s a lot of opportunity to influence a young person growing up, and I think Bucky did a magnificent job on influencing people in a positive manner.”
While the setting has changed, Goeb’s formula for forming student-athletes is still worth its weight as a professor, explaining, “You don’t have the influence over them that you do coaching, but you’re coaching them in an intellectual way. It’s a different style but it’s still all the same. So, you’re advancing that person’s development ability, intellectually.
“I try to teach my students, a lot of whom are athletes, an appreciation for other sports,” said Goeb. “There’s a very good chance they are going to have to learn about other sports and other programs, I certainly did. I went from UND to Alaska Fairbanks, a school that didn’t have wrestling.”
Ring to Rink
On his journey across the globe, Goeb’s ventures beyond the ring were guided by lessons learned from Bucky Maughan on the mat and the classroom.
“One of the most memorable classes I had was called the psychology of coaching taught by Bucky,” said Goeb. “It was a lot of fun being in his class and going through the process of coaching.
“We talk about certain skills growing up, education being such an important component of someone’s youth, and yet wrestling did that for me in many ways. It provided such a great education for me. I got to travel, meet a lot of people, learn about hard work, discipline and have life-long experiences that helped paved the way for the rest of my career.”
A key to the devotion that Goeb felt for wrestling was his brother, Dave. The two were each others sparring partners from an early age, when their father bought a mat to practice on at home in Anoka, Minnesota.
While Rick Goeb found success early on in his wrestling career, Dave’s dedication would take time to pay off.
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“We both fed off each other, we both pushed each other, and that’s what made us better,” said Goeb. “We even built a dummy out of sawdust and threw it around the wrestling room until one day it broke and sawdust flew all over the place.”
Looking back on his career today, Goeb has expanded his reach far beyond the confines of his wrestling genesis. What inspired his passion for wrestling fueled a journey across the nation and dropped him into new sports. Even though their home doesn’t have a practice mat in it, Goeb serves as an in-home coach for his children, guiding them through a familiar path of personal development and thrill of victory.