The Quintessential Maverick

Legend. Innovator. Champion. You can pick one, if you want. But be forewarned: You won’t be able to describe Rometo “Rummy” Macias in a word.

In fact, when examining Macias’s career, it’s hard not to continuously search for an adjective that goes further in describing the man who may be more “Maverick” than anyone else associated with the University.

You can say that Macias put the Minnesota State Mankato wrestling program on the map, because he traveled all over it. He started the wrestling program in 1950 and coached it for 38 years, inspiring young athletes to leave farms all over southern Minnesota and northern Iowa to become Maverick wrestlers, where they would go the extra mile to face the best competition in the country.

The 1957-58 National Championship wrestling team.

Coach Rummy Macias (back row, far left) with the 1957-58 NAIA National Championship wrestling team.

You can also say he wrote the book on wrestling, because he penned Wrestling, a 126-page hardcover examination of techniques, published in 1965.

In his “spare” time at the University, he served two stints as golf coach, earning four NCC team titles and one NIC title, and was twiced named the NCC Golf Coach of the Year. Oh, and he was an assistant coach with the football program.

Macias isn’t just in the Hall of Fame. He’s in seven of them.

And today, at the age of 90, Macias is re-inventing semi-retirement in Singer Island, Fla., where he still helps coach high school wrestling. His love for it is remains palpable.

“Wrestling is a sport where you learn so much,” Macias says. “It teaches you how to live, and it teaches you how to keep your body in shape. And you’re all out there alone.”

Like so many great wrestling stories, this one begins in Iowa, where Macias, a Davenport, Iowa, native, left an opportunity to inherit the nation’s most renowned program at the University of Iowa to start his own.

“When I was in Iowa, which is such a great wrestling school, I had been told that if I had stayed there a couple years I would have a chance at being head coach there, when I was an assistant,” Macias explains. “But I decided to go my own way and do it on my own. It’s a dream come true that it all came together.”

That it “came together” is yet another understatement. Macias built a national power, leading Minnesota State Mankato to three national titles, eight Northern Intercollegiate Conference championships and one North Central Conference title. Ninety-three of his wrestlers attained All-America status, and 19 were national individual champions.

“You of course remember the ups and the downs, but one of the things that really stands out to me now is the level of competition we competed with,” Macias says. “As I look back, in retirement, I watch wrestling now and I see Nebraska and Michigan wrestle and to think that we competed against them, and that we did well … that’s almost unbelievable.”

Rummy Macias shaking hands with Jim Makovsky.

Rummy Macias with current Mavericks wrestling coach Jim Makovsky.

True to his deferential style, Macias paints with a wide brush when giving credit for the program’s success, ranging from the administration that allowed his fledgling program the budget to travel so that his team could face the country’s stiffest competition to the athletes who helped place the program in prominence.

“We were able to recruit a lot of kids from nearby high schools,” Macias says. “That philosophy helped us because we didn’t have scholarships and couldn’t cover putting them up. A lot of things just fell in place. I was fortunate that the individuals I coached learned the technique very quickly. And that allowed us to compete with some of the better schools in the country quickly.

“Another thing that was important was that the town and the administration supported us so greatly,” he adds. “A lot of the kids who would be graduating from nearby high schools would come and see our competitions and notice that we were traveling to play some very good schools and that made recruiting easier.”

Fittingly, Macias’s name graces the University’s wrestling practice facility, where current wrestlers enjoy the path he paved for them. The facility was named the “Rummy Macias Wrestling Complex” in 2001. He was inducted into the Minnesota State Mankato Hall of Fame in 1982 and in 2004 was inducted into the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame—at the same time as Nobel Peace Prize winner, Dr. Norman Borlaug.

“I feel so humbled,” Macias says. “I am thrilled to death to have the Minnesota State Mankato wrestling complex honor me in that way. I’ve been honored with so many awards, but you look back and you don’t really realize what you’ve accomplished until you’re done. And you find it more interesting now. But I’m certainly honored by all of it.”