Johnny Cobb of Texas, successful coach in USA Wrestling, elected to the Panhandle Sports Hall of Fame
Portrait of Johnny Cobb (left) and photo of Cobb coaching Team USA member Amy Fearnside (below) by Jonny Ruggiano, Titan Mercury Wrestling Club.
Johnny Cobb of Amarillo, Texas, who has been a top coach at all levels in his state and is active in USA Wrestling on the national level, has been elected to the Panhandle Sports Hall of Fame, a major honor in his community.
Cobb coached 2000 Olympic champion Brandon Slay in youth programs and at Tascosa High School, and coached 2017 U.S. World Team member Tamyra Mensah in college at Wayland Baptist University and with the Titan Mercury WC. He has mentored numerous champion athletes at all levels of the sport.
Cobb will be inducted along with Hereford and Texas Tech hurdler James Mays and recently retired Amarillo High volleyball coach Jan Barker at the Panhandle Sports Hall of Fame ceremony on Feb. 11 at 2 p.m. at the Amarillo Civic Center Complex.
“I am a little humbled by this,” said Cobb. “The biggest thing is in Texas, we were behind the eight-ball for a time with wrestling. Since then, we have made great strides, especially on the women’s side.”
Cobb points to his years working with youth in the Amarillo area as the beginning of a life-long commitment to the sport, mentoring young people at all levels.
“The Maverick Boys Club, that’s where I grew up. We got the youth program going there and it went gangbusters. I then went to Tascosa High School and we had state championship teams there on the men’s and women’s side, the first one to do that,” he said.
Slay, who was an age-group World medalist while competing for Cobb in USA Wrestling’s developmental program, went on to become a two-time NCAA runner-up at the University of Pennsylvania. He was a U.S. Olympic Training Center resident athlete, and won the gold medal at 76 kg in freestyle at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. Slay worked many years as an Assistant National Freestyle Coach for USA Wrestling, and is currently Executive Director and coach of the Pennsylvania Regional Training Center in Philadelphia. Slay will attend the induction ceremony honoring Coach Cobb.
“Coach Cobb has been arguably the most influential person in the history of Texas Wrestling,” said Slay. “He has been a lifetime servant of the sport from the grassroots level of starting youth wrestling at the Maverick Club, leading Tascosa High School to the State Title, helping prepare me to become an NCAA All-American and Olympic Champion, helping start the first college wrestling program in Texas at Wayland Baptist, and now coaching women to winning the Olympic Trials and making World Teams. What an absolutely amazing career! I am honored to call him Coach and ultra thankful for the impact he has had on my life.”
After completing his career as a high school coach, Cobb was the first coach for Wayland Baptist University, which created both a men’s and women’s varsity program. Wayland Baptist became the first college wrestling team in the state of Texas after decades without a college program. He built the foundation for the program and has passed it on to the current coaching staff. Among his athletes there was Tamyra Mensah, a two-time WCWA women’s college national champion, who won the 2016 Olympic Trials and competed in the 2017 World Championships for Team USA.
“We got the first and only college wrestling program in Texas going. It was a pretty cool deal. Wayland Baptist has done quite well, with more than 50 All-Americans and several national champions. I was fortunate to coach both the men and women there,” said Cobb.
Cobb has become a coach with the Titan Mercury Wrestling Club, where he coaches Mensah and other talented women wrestlers on the national and international level. His in-depth knowledge of wrestling, combined with an ability to motivate athletes with a positive approach to the sport, is continuing to make a difference in USA Wrestling’s programs. Cobb says that “Titan Mercury has been super for me in letting me volunteer as one of their coaches.”
In his honest and humble way, Cobb points to many others for his success on and off the mat.
“I feel like a cog in the wheel. There are lots of people involved in the success of all these athletes. They are the product of a whole lot of people. I am glad to be part of it,” said Cobb.
PANHANDLE SPORTS HALL OF FAME BIOGRAPHY
Printed in Amarillo Globe News
Cobb is the 176th member and devoted a lifetime to coaching wrestling at Tascosa High and Wayland Baptist.
Before Cobb retired a couple of years ago, he became the first-ever coach of the new men’s and women’s wrestling program at Wayland Baptist back in January of 2010. This was the first college wrestling team in Texas.
Prior his stint at WBU, Cobb was atwo-time Texas High School Coach of the Year at Tascosa High School, a member of the Texas Wrestling Ring of Honor and the Texas chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Okla.
Cobb was a three-time district champion at Tascosa in the mid-60’s, losing only one high school match in three years of competition. Cobb was one of the founding members of the Panhandle Amateur Wrestling Association, he also founded the first kid’s wrestling program in the Texas Panhandle of Texas at the Maverick Boys Club in 1971. Cobb started his high school coaching career in 1988 coaching the boys and girls teams at Tascosa. He coached the Rebs from 1990 to 2008 (his first retirement) where his teams won three state championships.
Tascosa High wrestlers earned 21 individual state titles under, one of those, Brandon Slay, going on to win the 2000 Olympic Gold Medal.