Dawaylon Barnes’ focus has changed after a notable wrestling career that took him from the streets of Muskogee to the mats at the University of Oklahoma.
Following a Class 6A state championship, an NJCAA national championship at Northeastern A&M and then a 28-24 career record in Norman with one trip to the NCAA championships, Barnes these days is in the middle of graduate school, working in the mechanical engineering field and enhancing his portfolio with a master’s degree in the same discipline.
“I still feel the urge to go pro, wrestle internationally and show the world what I have is still there, but looking at it realistically, keeping up with school and wrestling professionally would be quite a task,” he said. “I can’t be giving half effort to either and not let the other suffer.”
So it’s weekends like this one where he gets his reconnection to the sport that gave him so much of what he has now in both forms.
Barnes along with former Rougher turned Bedlam rival Jacobe Smith will host a wrestling camp for kids ages 5 and up at Muskogee High School from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Cost is $50 per child and places are still available.
Smith wasn’t available for this story. But Barnes had plenty to say.
“I don’t do many camps at all, but this one is special because anytime I get back to the wrestling room I grew up in it’s always a nice set of memories,” he said. “Hopefully it’s a chance to give back to the area and hope the program there grows back to what it once was.”
Barnes hasn’t met Michael Harris, the new MHS wrestling coach hired in June and charged with finding a champion Muskogee hasn’t had since Barnes and Smith were there.
Harris came with high marks from Bobby Jefferson, who coached Barnes and Smith, and former wrestling assistant James Platter, who was in on the interview of Harris.
“If other coaches believe in you it says something about you,” Barnes said.
In the meantime, he hopes to have the influence on some kids it is hoped Harris inherits.
And about those who influenced him?
“Really all the coaches and how hard they worked and Jacobe too, because we were always neck and neck competing with each other, competing to get better,” he said.
His memories go beyond championships.
“Just the day by day routine, some of the things we did after practice, the talks we had with coaches, the jokes you shared with coaches, the trips on the van to meets. It’s all rolled into one and something I will always treasure,” he said.
Those interested in taking part should call assistants D.J. Berry, (918) 519-2515 or Chetan Munsell, (918) 577-5669.