EDMOND, Okla. — If you were going to start a wrestling program in Edmond, Oklahoma, wouldn’t you want the program’s leader to be a man who has run through the pipeline of Edmond Wrestling?
Also, did you know there’s two Aspen Coffees?
For Oklahoma Christian School wrestling head coach Colby Robinson and myself, well we didn’t. But Robinson was already on the way to 15th Street’s location by the time I had even thought of going to the other.
Helping others, that’s what Robinson is about — and he hopes his program follows suit.
He entered Tuesday in an electric shade of blue. A bit brighter than the darker and deeper, more navy, more royal styles of the color he wore during his time at both Edmond North and the University of Central Oklahoma. Those are already well-established and historic programs. We know what to expect from two of Edmond’s most historic teams. Robinson’s Saints, well, they’re new. And exciting. And electric.
But what do we expect from them?
That started with asking Robinson what he expects from his own team. And to understand that, we have to understand how his faith and his wrestling prowess have been molded by some of the oldest and most successful wrestling names in Edmond.
A high school state champion and three-time state placer, Robinson has been through the gauntlet of Edmond wrestling names. North’s Andy Schneider was his middle school wrestling coach. David James, who once amassed the second-most national championships across any level of collegiate wrestling during his 35-year stint at the University of Central Oklahoma, was his collegiate mentor.
Robinson rattled off all the historic names in Edmond’s deep wrestling history, too: Kelly Gregg, Teyon Ware, Johnny Hendricks, Kyle Evans, Sean Kyle, the Dixon triplets. In some form, Robinson has been influenced by all of those. So, when it came to who was going to be at the forefront of deciding Oklahoma Christian School’s program direction, wouldn’t it make sense for it to be Robinson?
In fact, during one of Robinson’s four interviews for the position, Oklahoma Christian School headmaster Dr. Al King told the soon-to-be head coach, “I don’t care if we hire you as a wrestling coach, but I can tell you you’re a man of God, and God has strategically placed you here in this moment.”
And that’s ultimately the direction Robinson and OCS want the program to follow: One that honors the Lord. Robinson wants his athletes to display a servant’s heart, whether that’s on the mat against an opponent, or during their time spent in school or other sports, or maybe it’s even by driving across town for a meeting at the wrong coffee shop.
“The main focus of our program is God-centered,” Robinson said, sipping from a black coffee at the 15th Street Aspen. “We’re interested in developing young men for the greater glory of God. That’s the center focus of who we are.”
That something was molded into Robinson during his time wrestling with — and under — Edmond’s most influential. James, who was reportedly the first coach in the room when Robinson started wrestling and was the last one when it was time for OCS’s new leader to move on, still has a good relationship with Robinson. They talk often, with their faith and discipleship a common subject between the two. Schneider, an infectious lightning-rod of faith, is ever prevalent for Robinson, too.
“I pick their brain all the time,” Robinson explained. “They made prominent programs throughout their career, I constantly call them.”
His time as a student of the sport led him to his point today: A man who spent time ministering in southeast Oklahoma before coaching and teaching at a handful of public and private, faith-based scholastic venues — all while preaching the glory of the Lord.
Now, he gets to do that in his own hometown.
“Wrestling is just a spiritual act of worship,” Robinson explained, detailing how he combines the two influences together. “In our school, we’re bringing the glory to God through all things. It’s about who the glory is going to.”
Robinson explained that the sport alone offers a unique angle at getting young athletes to experience what his program is teaching. That angle — inclusion — comes from a sport that has historically fostered athletes who’ve struggled to find a home in the more glorified team sports.
“I can’t tell you how many experiences that I’ve seen where kids haven’t been able to find their place,” he said. “You allow a kid to be in a weight class or compete with someone their own age and it really does make them find their place. It allows them to find their sport.”
Robinson likes to lead his faith-based push for involvement through example, and on Tuesday he had a personal example for almost every point mentioned.
“Basketball wasn’t for me. Soccer, I didn’t understand the running. Wrestling was my heaven. I could go out on the wrestling mat and not worry about anything. It has grown me so much, it taught me about being a man, about facing adversity and being able to push through it.”
Inclusion led him to wrestling, and it led him home to OCS, too. The school offered his wife, Emily, a teaching position where she educates first graders. Their children, nine-year-old Makaylee, a third grader, and six-year-old son Caedmon, are included in the equation, too.
Robinson would be the first to tell anyone that the program’s direction isn’t entirely directed by him. He has hard-working athletes, he has a willing and wanting administration behind him, and he’s strapped in beside talented assistant coaches.
“I’ve talked to each and every one of the kids individually,” Robinson said when asked about his program’s one-, three- and five-year plan. “My hope and prayer is this season catapults into more growth for everyone. If I ever stop growing, then I’ll be done coaching wrestling.”
That growth is facilitated by the support systems around the team. Edmond North’s historic, two-time state champion Andrew Dixon is slated in an assistant coaching position alongside Robinson. Meanwhile, assistant James Lichtenberger, uses his experience with little league programs to closely work with the junior high, fostering the staff’s future for the coming years.
That future, Robinson reiterated to close, is based around upholding the glory of the Lord.
“We challenge the kids to memorize scripture and verses that will go through their head while they’re out there competing,” he said.
Wrestling is weight-based, so football-style team dinners are off the table. That means Robinson has to be creative in his mentorship.
“We spend a lot of time in discipleship and fellowship. We spend some time memorizing scripture, but mostly we’re trying to let the main thing be the main thing,” he said.
That main thing?
“We’re developing young men for the greater glory of God.”