Mike Moguin’s Gym Namesake Remembered
Editor’s Note: Mike Moguin was the father of GTR Media Group sports writer Mike Moguin. This article, written by his son, is in tribute to a great Tulsa sportsman.
By Mike Moguin
GTR Sports Writer
If you’ve seen my name attached to many sports stories here for the past six years, you’ve possibly wondered if I am or if I’m kin to Mike Moguin who once owned a gym, or coached wrestling, was a weightlifter, bodybuilder and a fireman. I am not him but we’re related. He is my father and I was named after him.
Tragically, we lost him to COVID-19 on Aug. 29. He was 79 years old and we celebrated what would be his last birthday over one month earlier. He caught the deadly disease in August, the same time my mother and I also came down with it. While my mom and I recovered, my dad was not as fortunate. While he was mostly healthy from staying active athletically, through lifting weights and coaching, his weakness was he had asthma which he developed during his time with the fire department in the 1970s and 80s. Further, smoke inhalation from fighting fires weakened his lungs. COVID worsened the situation by further inflaming his lungs.
Moguin Sr. grew up a sports fan and was active in several sports. He took up wrestling and got hooked while having success with the sport at Will Rogers High School, where he graduated in 1960. At Rogers, he also apprenticed under legendary coach Morey Villareal. Around the same time, he began lifting weights. After a year in college, he served a three-year stint in the Army overseas in Germany. He returned to the states in 1964 and married my mother, Sharon Young-Moguin, on Christmas Day of that year. They would have two children, including yours truly.
He began coaching wrestling in the late ‘60s at Skelly Junior High School and led the program to a city championship. In 1969, he converted his garage into a fully equipped gym for his wrestlers to come in and train. That opened the door for local athletes at all levels to come in as well. Interest in the home gym then expanded to weightlifters, bodybuilders, baseball players, football players and basketball players, both amateur and pro. His expertise in bodybuilding resulted in him being crowned Mr. Oklahoma at the bodybuilding meet in 1972. Under his coaching, athletes developed respect and appreciation for my father. Many friendships were developed as well.
Eventually, as membership of the gym grew, he and a life-long friend and business partner, bought a building at 11th and Harvard and moved the gym there in 1976. With the gym’s location in the neighborhood of the University of Tulsa, it attracted young men from all over the city. Many standout athletes worked out there from every school – public and private – from around the region.
My father made ties with many coaches at the high school and college levels, especially at TU. Among those my dad trained were Mike Fanning, a standout at Edison, who went on to play college football at Notre Dame and in a Super Bowl for the Los Angeles Rams; David Alexander, a Broken Arrow and TU standout who played in the NFL for the Philadelphia Eagles; Other TU standouts such as Steve August, Steve Nicholson, Sid Abromowitz, as well as Steve Largent, who was an NFL All-Pro and record setter for the Seattle Seahawks, and Steve Cox, who went on to a stellar career in professional wrestling, also trained there and loved my dad. He also trained local athletes who played at OU such as Spencer Tillman, now a college football analyst, and brothers, Jon and Anthony Phillips and Bob Latham. Mickey Collins, a former Booker T. Washington standout, who played collegiately at Wichita State, also worked out there. Collins was the older brother of Patrick Collins, also a BTW star who had a successful career at OU. Oklahoma State players who trained there in the summer were Butch Crites, Calvin Miller, and Doug Freeman. Another athlete was Trey Boyer, a bodybuilder raised here in Tulsa with whom I attended high school. Boyer won contests in Oklahoma and Virginia, where his parents would eventually relocate. Boyer, who attended OU, also had success with his own gym in Norman and was inspired by my dad’s work ethic. He now resides in Florida. On the day after my dad’s passing, Boyer said that he had been to weightlifting gyms all across the country and that he never saw a gym like my dad’s.
The athletes and coaches were not the only people who came into the gym to train. People from all walks of life also came in to workout and gained respect for and cultivated friendships with my dad. He was truly an icon. He was known all over town and you could not go anywhere without him running into someone he knew. And he would spend quality time speaking and reminiscing with them. Some people have told me that Moguin’s Gym, the title of his business, is just as iconic as Bell’s Amusement Park.
My father eventually sold the gym in 1996 and spent his retirement years coaching wrestling as the head coach at Bishop Kelley (2002-07) and as an assistant at Cascia Hall (2007-11) to the legendary Ernie Jones, the drove buses for several years at the University of Tulsa.
Of course, he impacted my life growing up by coaching me through workouts when I was involved in sports. He also gave me advice on how to diet properly. His knowledge in those areas also laid the groundwork that inspired my career in sports journalism. My father inspired the lives of many people and helped some overcome their personal problems. He was an icon and a legend. He was appreciated, liked and loved by many people. He will be missed but his legacy will live on.
Rest in Peace, Dad. I am proud to be your son.