Dax Charles has spent over 30 years at CSU-Pueblo as a student-athlete and wrestling coach. As a competitor, Charles won a national championship at CSU-Pueblo (then University of Southern Colorado) in 1992 and earned All-America honors three times. He was inducted into the NCAA Division II Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2012 and the CSU-Pueblo Athletics Hall of Fame in 2015.
Charles became CSU-Pueblo's head wrestling coach in 2008 after the program was reestablished. He has taken the program to great heights, finishing in the top-25 at the NCAA Division II Wrestling Championships several times, including an 11th place finish in 2018. He was named 2017 RMAC Coach of the Year after guiding the ThunderWolves to their seventh RMAC championship.
MatBoss recently caught up with Charles and talked to him about this past season, his competitive career, team expectations and more.
You started last season 2-2 in dual meets and then had your final four duals canceled. Three of your wrestlers finished the season by placing in the top four at the Super Region. How would you characterize the season overall?
Charles: Piss-poor. Terrible.
Was it your most difficult season as a coach?
One of your assistant coaches, Mike Roumph, passed away tragically from a rafting accident in June of 2020. How will you remember Mike?
Charles: I have known Mike for the last 32 years of my life. He's the one who helped me start the program financially. He was my workout partner. It was pretty tough.
What has the offseason been like for the team?
Charles: We have a regional training center and practice Tuesdays and Thursdays. I do wrestling camps throughout the summer. I'm leaving tomorrow to go to Akron, Colorado, to do another camp. We had a camp here at CSU-Pueblo. We have the Colorado All-State wrestling team here today practicing and then they have a dual meet today. So we stay busy.
What type of athletes do you recruit at CSU-Pueblo?
Charles: I recruit good character kids who know how to wrestle and want to get an education and graduate from college.
You have been at CSU-Pueblo for over 30 years as a competitor and coach. What makes Pueblo, Colorado, so special?
Charles: The people first and foremost. I like everybody here. I met my wife here at the university. I raised my daughters in Pueblo. The weather is phenomenal. And the economy is affordable.
As a competitor, you won a Division II national championship in 1992. What impact did that accomplishment have on your coaching career?
Charles: I like to believe it put me in a position to be the head coach here. So that was a pretty big benefit. But it taught me a lot about hard work. I learned a lot about helping others throughout the process to become a better person. To achieve your goals you have to surround yourself with good people. I was fortunate to have a lot of good teammates and I'm still friends with all of them.
The wrestler you defeated in the national finals, Ali Elias, was a finalist at the Junior World Championships and a six-time Iranian national champion. What did it take to defeat him?
Charles: A no-quit attitude. He was undefeated when I wrestled him. I wrestled him earlier in the season and he beat me in a one-point match. That particular weekend I was just determined to win the tournament.
When you look back at the sport of college wrestling when you were competing in the early 90s and compare it to what it is now, what do you see as the biggest differences?
Charles: A lot more kids are college-ready now compared to when I was competing. They have better training programs for high school kids and a lot more offseason wrestling. When I was competing in high school we never had an opportunity to wrestle in Fargo. Also, I'm from Louisiana and only wrestled six months in high school.
You compete at some early open tournaments that have some Division I competition, like the Cowboy Open and the Northern Colorado Open. How important is it for your wrestlers to see Division I competition?
Charles: It helps motivate our guys for the rest of the season. It also gives me an indicator of who is going to have some early success. I've been doing those tournaments for a long time. Great competition.
What are your expectations for the 2021-22 season?
Charles: We have to get back to the national tournament and get some guys on the podium. I'm praying that we don't have any interruptions for COVID. We're just going to train and get ready to compete to the best of our ability. I have a good crew of kids coming in, so I'm excited. We will put the COVID year behind us and the passing of Mike. We will just rebuild and reload and do what we know how to do best.
How has MatBoss been beneficial to your program?
Charles: I've been using MatBoss for six, seven years now. We use it for evaluation. We use it for highlight videos for some of the kids. We like that kids have access to it as soon as we video tape it. MatBoss is constantly upgrading their technology. We didn't get to use it that much last year, so I'm looking forward to keeping it. I like to have the history of our matches from year-to-year. It's all in one spot.