By Brian Jerzak
From a very young age, Marty Morgan has been involved in some aspect of wrestling. From youth wrestling, through his time as the Minnesota Gophers’ head wrestling assistant, and beyond, Morgan has been involved in the sport. Wrestling has always been a big influence on his life. It has had almost as much influence as his family. For Morgan, wrestling has always been – and always will be – a family affair.
“My three oldest brothers were all professional boxers, and my dad ended up switching to wrestling. Three of us, the younger brothers – we had six boys total – the three younger ones, we all switched into wrestling. I just followed my brothers who were older than me. We were at Kennedy High School, which was a strong program in the early 80’s in which we were state champions twice. My brothers both went on to become college All-Americans and were both on the Olympic team. I had some good mentors right in my own house.”
Morgan was a very good high school wrestler, but could never get over the hump and become a state champion. After he got into college Morgan got over the hump. He won two national championships – one with (at the time) Division II North Dakota State and one with Minnesota.
“When I got to college I became an NCAA champion which is probably my number one athletic moment.”
Morgan felt his strength in wrestling was that he didn’t have a strength. He felt he was strong in all positions.
“I could wrestle upper body if I needed to,” Morgan said. “I did a lot of leg shots. I was good on top and the bottom. My number one thing was my conditioning. I could wrestle for a long time without getting tired.”
After his active wrestling career had ended, Morgan was a volunteer coach for the Gophers for two years and then became the head assistant coach in 1996.
“I think college coaching is one of the best experiences you can have,” Morgan said. “You get to work with the elite of the elite. During my time there we were top three in the nation eight or nine times and won three national championships.”
His experience on J Robinson’s staff helped him become a better coach but also set him up to succeed when his Gophers’ coaching career ended.
“One thing that J does when you are working there is he forces you to do things that are outside of the coaching world,” the three-time All-American said. “When you are coaching at Minnesota it is a much bigger dynamic than just the coaching. It was a heavy workload, but I learned a lot. When you succeed in that, you feel like you can do almost anything you want.”
With the success he had as an assistant, if he wanted it, a head coaching job could have been in his future, but his family and an opportunity allowed him to make a change.
“The thing about college wrestling is it is a great experience, but it is also time-consuming,” Morgan said. “At the time I had a wife and three kids and another on the way, and I didn’t think it was conducive to family life at that point.”
“I had already been working with Brock (Lesnar) on a part-time basis – working with him in the UFC. It just so happened that he changed his training plan and built a gym in Alexandria. He asked me if I wanted to train him full-time.”
Morgan’s roll with Lesnar’s gym – Death Clutch – had less to do with wrestling technique and more on setting up practice plans and running the overall training.
“A lot of MMA fighters don’t have someone to coordinate the whole thing,” Morgan said. “I set up out gym and team just like we did with college wrestling. The head coach of a college wrestling team doesn’t always know how to do a low single, but they do know how to bring in the right people to teach that whatever the area is. My role was more of that, organizing an overall training program and bringing in the right people and coaches. (Lesnar) knew from being around me that I had those qualities.”
Morgan would set up the schedule for all the fighters basically from day one of training until what their schedule was the day of their fight.
The wrestling world and the MMA world had similarities and differences.
“In wrestling it is about setting up training plans for large groups of people and trying to keep them heading in the right direction for their academics and getting them ready for the national tournament. Most of that translates to MMA. I think that is why so many wrestling coaches are doing it now.”
“The difference in MMA was their training schedules are all so different,” continued Morgan. “Trying to find people that can train together for a long period of time is difficult. If you have six guys, and two of them have a fight in the next month, it was hard to incorporate the different training plans.”
Morgan was in the corner for all of Lesnar and former Gophers wrestler Cole Konrad’s fights. The gym was set up specifically for Lesnar, so when he ended his MMA career, the gym in Alexandra closed. Although he had success working with Lesnar, Konrad and veteran UFC fighter Pat Barry, Morgan never seriously considered continuing with MMA when Lesnar’s career ended.
“To make a living as an MMA coach you have to run a public gym alongside it,” Morgan said. “Most fighters can’t pay the bills of a coach. It takes the fighter so long to make any real money. I never had the desire to run a public gym. If I was to be full time in coaching, then I might as well be coaching college wrestling, but then I would be right back to the extensive travel again.”
“One of the things I wanted to make sure of when I left college coaching was that I could be around my kids’ sports. They (three boys) all love wrestling, so we do that all winter long. It has been a great thing to have. I get to go home and talk about high school and college wrestling – what’s better than that?”
Morgan mainly works with the kids in the Mounds View school district from ninth grade on down. The Iron Mustangs teach all three wrestling styles. Morgan also is the coach of the ninth grade team.
Since leaving the MMA coaching world, Morgan moved his focus to real estate.
“I worked with rental properties first when I was still at the U. I got my real estate license about ten years ago. I did some part-time real estate in the summer. As I was coaching Brock, I started developing a plan to start a brokerage. So once Brock was done my ultimate plan was to start my own real estate brokerage which is what I did in 2012.”
Like everything in his life, wrestling played a part in the success of his company – Morgan and Trust Realty.
“The majority of my business is through sales, and, fortunately, the wrestling network has been very loyal. I get a lot of wrestling people that look to buy or sell with me. That was my best asset when starting the business. Running the business is very similar to running a sports program. It is attention to detail and outworking people.”
Although now working with a different age level, elite wrestling will never be far from Morgan’s life. Like usual, however, how long and how much he stays active in the sport depend largely on his family. After his kids are done wrestling – it will be at least eight more years when his youngest son is a senior – Morgan doesn’t see wrestling ever not being part of his life.
“I will always try to be involved in wrestling. I am not sure what position or place it would be. Somewhere I will be involved with wrestling.”