You spot Rocky Atencio on the sidelines at a Plainview High School wrestling match, and you think: “Isn’t that the Rocky guy from the car dealership ads?”

You spot Rocky Atencio on the sidelines at a Plainview High School wrestling match, and you think: “Isn’t that the Rocky guy from the car dealership ads?”

Yeah, that’s him. It’s also the Rocky who runs a youth wrestling program in Ardmore and is on the board of H.F.V. Wilson Community Center.

The same Rocky, no one different.

“I like to give back to the community because the community’s been so good to me,” the 37-year-old said.

So has wrestling — from Atencio’s childhood days in Albuquerque, N.M

He was a standout wrestler in high school, winning New Mexico’s Outstanding Wrestler of the Year honors and finishing third in his state meet his senior year (1990).

The same passion for wrestling has stuck with him through his adulthood, even as he became more involved in the car business, buying an Ardmore dealership in 2000. He started the Plainview Wrestling Club in 2004, and youths from many south-central Oklahoma school districts have helped the program grow and compete.

“I was looking for a program here for my boys,” said Atencio, a father of three boys and one girl with another child on the way. “When you think Oklahoma, you think wrestling.”

The wrestling parents they are, Atencio and his friend Shawn Davis took their boys across the region to work out with other clubs before Davis talked Atencio into starting the Plainview Wrestling Club, although some programs in Ardmore already were in existence.

“We’d been driving to Duncan, Oklahoma, for three years and worked out with a team,” said Davis, a father to three wrestlers. “A year or two before that, we drove to Pauls Valley. Then a friend of mine introduced me to Rocky. We talked and he actually got it going off the ground.”

The cost for a wrestler to join the PWC? Nothing. Atencio footed the bill for competition fees and wrestling equipment.

The program grew from seven kids in 2004 to 69 in 2007, Atencio said. The club now has about 25 wrestlers, but that’s because many who wrestled in previous years moved onto junior high and high school wrestling.

Even Atencio has moved into the secondary school venue as a coach. He also volunteers as an assistant coach in Plainview Schools’ program, but he hasn’t been able to spend as much time with the PWC in the process.

“Wrestling is a sport that you have to be dedicated to,” said Miller, who helps run the youth club. “Even this year, he’s been very instrumental. A lot of the kids on the team wouldn’t want to wrestle for anyone else.”

Working with Plainview High’s team has also helped Atencio spend time with his adopted son, Santana Burris, 16, a wrestler for the Indians.

“We didn’t think we were going to have anymore (kids),” Atencio said. “You hear all kinds of stories about how kids need some help out there. … He’s a good, young man, a first-class kid.”
A normal day for Atencio: Junior high practice from 7:15 to 8:45 a.m., then it’s off to his dealership before returning to Plainview High for practice from 2:45-5 p.m.

Good thing his dealership and Plainview High are within a small radius. But add the meets to his weekly schedule, and that’s a lot of hours.

“He’s got a lot of knowledge about the sport, but he’s got a lot of compassion for the sport and for the kids,” Plainview coach Tony Willoughby said.

On some nights, the wrestling doesn’t stop when he leaves Plainview. Some of his youth wrestlers will hone their technique on a mat inside his house.

“It’s called time management,” Atencio said. “A lack of sleep is all it is.”

The time has been well spent. The PWC produced four Oklahoma Kids Wrestling Association regional champions this year, according to Miller.

One of his past wrestlers presented him a plaque which reads:

“One hundred years from now, it will not matter what my bank account was, what sort of house I lived in, what kind of car I drove. But the world may be different because I was in the life of a child.”

Winning isn’t everything to Atencio, as he doesn’t stress wins more than giving 110 percent. Giving back to children is.

“He’s a great person,” Davis said. “The more I’m around him, the more I see that, not just for wrestling, but for all schools. Nothing short of amazing.”

For more on the Plainview Wrestling Club or how to join, call Atencio at 226-1210.

I.C. Murrell,