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Dr. Joe at the MAC

Dr. Joe at the MAC

One of the fascinating aspects of sports is the people you meet.

For athletes, it starts early. From new friends, their parents, and coaches, the world expands in front of them.

If you stay in a sport long enough, you meet some of the greats.

On the other hand, if you write about sports, great characters emerge.

Dr. Joseph McFarland is one of them.

We met at this years Oregon high school wrestling championships. He was helping man the table for Restore College Wrestling in Oregon, explaining the mission and signing people up.

I was there to say hello. If you’ve ever wrestled and live in the same state where you competed you’ll run into more people than you expect.

And a few you don’t.

Dr. Joe was one of those. I introduced myself and he said, “You’re the writer.”

It wasn’t a question, which surprised me, though I still explained boomerpdx and my focus on Portland baby boomers.

The next surprise was even better. He’s a writer, too. A blogger.

From orthopedic surgeon to diet and exercise enthusiast isn’t the stretch it seems like it is for most medical doctors.

The more he and I talked, the more I heard echoes of naturopathic medicine and the connection between nutrition and fitness. I hear that often since my wife is a naturopathic doctor and our kids wrestled. High nutrition and low calories are still the goals to aim for.

An hour passed, then another, and we decided to meet somewhere soon to continue our conversation. We set a lunch date at the Multnomah Athletic Club.

The mighty MAC.

We skipped Portland’s upscale brew pubs, the trendy food carts, and instead went straight to the region’s sports mecca, the same place Tony Russo began his climb to Arizona State and the dynasty that is Newberg wrestling. It’s a wonderful story told in Tonya Russo Hamilton’s book, Wrestling With The Devil, and the MAC plays an important role.

How important is the MAC? If the Heisman Trophy lived in Portland, the MAC would have it there.

Dr. McFarland guided us to a restaurant past the wall of fame where I saw a picture of Terry Shanley, Oregon Duck heavy weight wrestler and fellow Oregon coast native.

From our table to the salad bar and back, we picked up our conversation where we left off, but it took an unusual turn.

While he’s on the formal committee to Restore College Wrestling in Oregon along with Mike Clock, Marlin Grahn, John Dustin, Kurt Davis, Chuck Holliday, Craig Woodward, Roger Rolen, Howard Morris, Gary Head, John Speasl, Ron Iwasaki, and Buck Davis, we talked about writing and sports, writing and health, writing and making a difference.

In a place that feels like hallowed sports ground, Joe McFarland wanted the same thing every athlete wants, a chance to compete the way he learned as a youth. He wants to give everything he’s got to give.

Do you have great characters in your life? Write about one in comments and win a free autographed copy of Wresting With The Devil. It’s a wonderful read to share on many levels. Looking forward to finding a winner.

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About David Gillaspie


  1. For very good reasons, Dr. Joe was given the outstanding American award at last year’s Oregon chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. Oregon is fortunate to have Dr. McFarland as one of its citizens

    • David Gillaspie says:

      There is a power in persistence, in refusing to give in whether it’s against a common foe or your own better judgment. Dr. Joe is one of those guys, and so are you Coach Dustin.

      In one of life’s many twists, John Dustin coached the Marshfield Pirates after an outstanding wrestling career at Oregon State University. I lived in the next town over, North Bend, and wrestled for another legend, Dave Abraham. The Dustin-coached Pirates were always on our radar with their great coach pushing them.

      Coach Dustin moved on to bigger things, like organizing the Atlanta Olympics wrestling. I grew up and moved away to Tigard, Coach Dustin’s hometown, where my kids wrestled.

      Time lines in sports include so many surprises, and meeting Dr. Joe with the rest of the Restore College Wrestling in Oregon group was one of them. He was an Outstanding American the first time I talked to him.

      Some guys are like that. Most wrestlers are like that.

  2. Dr. Joe McFarland is indeed a rare person with many passions.

    He was one of the first to join the “Save Oregon Wrestling” group that is trying to get wrestling reinstated at the U of O. He is a backer of the SOW scholarship program for Oregon youth. He is one of the first to step up and offer his help in fundraising, working a table, or playing in a help wrestling golf tournament.

    He is a rare person and I wish we would have many more step up and offer there help like Dr. Joe. Thanks Joe for all you do.

    • David Gillaspie says:

      If a man is judged by the company he keeps, Dr. McFarland has no worries. That company doesn’t get much better than John Dustin and Ron Finley.

      Coach Finley’s wrestling journey took him from Newberg, to Oregon State University, to the Tokyo Olympics of 1964, to Reedsport, to the University of Oregon. If you’re looking for a path less traveled, you found one.

      Men from my era, guys like Buck Davis and Terry Shanley and Kevin Kramer wrestled under Coach Finley’s guidance. He was a difference maker in so many lives and continues the work.

      Dr. McFarland is a difference maker of a different stripe. If you’ve had loved ones who needed medical attention, you’d be lucky to find someone like this Doc. One of the interesting things about wrestlers is their on the mat and off the mat lives. On the mat, they have much in common. Off the mat, not as much.

      Toward finding more common ground in wrestling, I’m coordinating a wrestling segment on Portland Sportsbeat for July 24th. The first guests will be Coach Josh Rhoden from Clackamas Community College and, with any luck, former Duck wrestler Chael Sonnen and former CCC champion and current D2 champ Tyrell Fortune if he gets back from Russia where he’s competing in the University Games.

      Men like Ron Finley, John Dustin, and Joe McFarland continue to pave the road so wrestlers with their own championship dreams can find their way to the podium.

      If there is a way you can help, please do. You can contact them through their email. Or right here.

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