From the Land of Enchantment comes a family of standout wrestlers and wrestling coaches that ranks among the nation’s very best.
That family – the Owen family of Carlsbad, New Mexico – included two coaches and four wrestlers who collectively won an astounding 14 New Mexico Activities Association (NMAA) state titles while wrestling for Carlsbad High School.
Brothers Don and Ron Owen are the fathers of two each of those wrestlers - and each is father to one named Scott. Born just six weeks apart, having two “Scott Owens” obviously caused tremendous confusion as they were growing up.
Don is father to Scott and Troy Owen, who between themselves won nine NMAA state titles. That Scott’s legal name is Michael Scott.
Meanwhile, Ron’s boys are Eric Scott and Aaron. Eric Scott was a three-time NMAA state champion, and in an interesting full-circle move, today is an NMAA Assistant Director for Sports. An outstanding all-around athlete, he also placed first in two NFHS Summer Meeting Fun Runs. Rounding out the wrestling sons is Eric Scott’s younger brother, Aaron, who was a two-time state champion.
Michael Scott Owen (1998) and Troy Owen (1999) at NMAA state wrestling tournaments with Scott winning his fifth state title and Troy his fourth state title
The first of the foursome chronologically was Eric Scott, who graduated from Carlsbad High School as a three-time state champion. He then matriculated at Northern Illinois University, where he became a two-time NCAA Division I All-American wrestler.
The second wrestler in line was his near-namesake Michael Scott Owen, who won five NMAA state championships from 1994 to 1998 (his eighth-grade through senior year seasons), while amassing a 121-1 career win-loss record. His lone setback was to Shane Roller, who was a four-time Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association state champion. Michael Scott’s efforts helped lead the Cavemen to NMAA state titles during his freshman, sophomore and junior seasons (1995-1997).
Michael Scott’s younger brother by a year, Troy, was the third wrestler in the extended family. Troy compiled a 120-7 win-loss record as he claimed NMAA state titles from 1996 to 1999. Interestingly, five of his losses were to Oklahoma wrestlers, while the other two were to in-state wrestlers during his eighth-grade year. That season, he was ranked No. 2 in the state, but didn’t place in the state tournament.
The final member of this quartet of talented grapplers was Aaron. After placing third in the state as both a freshman and a sophomore, Aaron went undefeated the following two seasons (29-0 in 2001-02 and 41-0 in 2002-03) en route to back-to-back states titles. His overall career record was 140-19. Following his senior year, Wrestling USA Magazine named Aaron an All-American, and ranked him No. 11 in the nation within his weight class (152 pounds).
“Growing up an Owen was probably quite different than most kids’ childhoods,” Aaron said. “Everything was about wrestling, and we competed and trained year-round. I started working out and training at the age of four, and our dad pushed us very hard.
“Being the youngest – and last – of the Owen clan put a decent amount of pressure on me. I had 12 state titles and 13 state finalists ahead of me. But, I tried not to let that get to me.
“I think the highlight of my high school career wasn’t when I won my two state titles, as I expected to win those and was actually frustrated at not having won any prior to that. The highlight of my career actually came when I suffered two losses at the National High School Coaches Association Senior Championships, which invited the best high school seniors from each state. Despite not placing, I think that was the best I had ever wrestled and it really helped my confidence in thinking I belonged on the national scene.”
Ron Owen during his freshman year at the University of New Mexico in 1972-73
Following high school, Aaron followed his brother Eric Scott’s footsteps to Northern Illinois University because he was impressed by how he had done there, and also because he was staying on to be a member of the NIU wrestling coaching staff.
“Despite Scott being there for just two years, he was the best coach I had ever had – just ahead of my dad,” Aaron noted. “He understood how to explain techniques and was excellent at making specific game plans for specific opponents. It also didn’t hurt to have the best wrestler in NIU history be your older brother.”
Brothers Michael Scott and Troy Owen learned from the best while growing up – their father Don Owen, who placed second in the 145-pound weight class for Carlsbad in 1971 with a 20-4 win-loss record.
“While my dad will play it down because he lost in the finals, placing second was pretty significant because he did not even wrestle until he was a junior in high school,” Michael Scott said. “So, in only his second year on the mat, he made it to the state finals.
“My career highlight was being named to the Dapper Dan team, because it was at that point that I was recognized for my accomplishments as one of the best in the nation. In addition to that, winning my fourth state championship was another big highlight. At that time, I believe I was either the fourth or fifth person in the state to ever do that.”
“Growing up, there was never a choice if we were going to wrestle, but more of when, where and how long,” Troy said. “Toward the end of my kindergarten year, we started out with practice on the living room floor – that’s where my wrestling career began.
“The true highlight of my high school career was winning my first state title as an eighth-grader at 152 pounds. In the finals, I wrestled a senior and won, 15-2. It wasn’t even that I was an underdog – I was actually the No. 1 seed. It was memorable because it was really the only time the hostile Albuquerque crowd cheered for an out-of-town Carlsbad wrestler. I’m not entirely sure the crowd was on board again until my final match when I won my fifth state title.”
For Don Owen, the greatest thrill in his wrestling career entails having the opportunity to coach his sons.
“Without a doubt, my greatest memories in my life will always revolve around coaching my sons in wrestling,” Don said. “I sat in the chair next to the mat and watched my son Scott win five state championships and Troy win four. Then, Eric Scott moved to Carlsbad his junior year and was already a defending state champion who had been coached by his dad Ron Owen. So, what an awesome opportunity to coach a wrestling team with three Owens on the same team.
“My sons got involved with wrestling most likely because I lost in the state finals my senior year. Had I been state champion, I likely could have walked away from the sport – but I lost! So, when my sons turned five years old, we began the quest for them to win a state championship. Their success is due not only to me, but to their mother Anita as well. Her jobs included nutrition, driving them to tournaments, and videotaping all of their matches so on Sundays we could watch video and work for hours on correcting mistakes.”
Don’s brother Ron also got his start as a Carlsbad wrestler, where he was a three-year varsity performer who placed fourth as a senior.
“During my junior year, my record was 7-14,” Ron began. “My senior year, I wrestled at 138 and went 20-3. I was seeded first in the state tournament, but placed fourth. That still bothers me to this day.
“My brothers John (who did not wrestle) and Don and I are 11 months apart,” Ron explained. “So, I am the same age as Don for a month and Don is the same age as John for a month. Because of that dynamic, growing up we fought constantly -- my mom would wear a belt around her neck so that it was handy when we started fighting. We had no wrestling background until we joined the high school wrestling program. However, we had been fighting each other for a very long time.
Eric Scott Owen, who currently is an assistant director of the New Mexico Activities Association
“I wrestled for the University of New Mexico and received a partial scholarship the beginning of my sophomore year. However, I withdrew from UNM at the end of the fall semester and finished my college wrestling for Fort Lewis College where I was a runner up in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference two times. I also went to the NAIA national wrestling tournament twice, but didn't place either time. In 2000, I wrestled in the veterans nationals where I placed third in the 76-kg weight class.”
John Gillis is the associate director of development of the NFHS. If you have any comments or articles ideas, please forward them to Gillis at firstname.lastname@example.org