Former UNM wrestling coach Bill Dotson a ‘character’

Bill Dotson, the longtime head wrestling coach at the University of New Mexico before the program was cut by the school in 1999, has died.

Dotson, 81, died late Saturday afternoon of heart failure in Albuquerque, said his oldest son Charlie.

“He not only was a good man and liked to laugh, he was also a lucky man,” said Charlie Dotson, the oldest of four siblings and Eldorado High’s head football coach.

At UNM, where he coached from 1980-1999, Dotson coached five Division I All-Americans, and twice was the Western Athletic Conference Coach of the Year, in 1989 and 1999. The school eliminated the program in April of that year.

Dotson was a highly accomplished wrestler in his day. He competed for Waterloo East, winning a pair of undefeated Iowa state titles in 1957 and 1958, before going to the University of Northern Iowa, then known as Iowa State Teacher’s College.

To this day, Dotson holds this unique distiction: he won both Division II and Division I individual titles at the same weight (137 pounds) in 1963.

Back then, the D-II champ earned an automatic berth into the D-1 field, and Dotson won at both levels. He was a D-1 runner-up in 1962. His college match record was a stellar 78-2-4.

“Wrestling at UNM was a big, big part of my life, and Bill Dotson was bigger than life,” said Mark Garcia, who wrestled for Dotson at UNM coming out of Rio Grande High School and later became the Ravens head wrestling coach.

Garcia qualified for the NCAAs his senior year.

“He was quite the character, and quite the wrestling coach,” Garcia said.

Another of Dotson’s former athletes, Rico Garcia — no relation to Mark Garcia — said Dotson was a driven coach, but highly influential with those who knew him.

“He gave me an opportunity to wrestle at the D-1 level, took a chance on a JC wrestler,” Rico Garcia said. He is currently a high school teacher and wrestling coach himself. “And he really formed me as a person, and as a wrestler.”

Speaking about Dotson’s competitive nature, Rico Garcia told a story of a match he once wrestled at UNM.

“I remember, he talked about never stalling,” he said. “One match, I wasn’t working as hard as I should have, and I saw him reaching for a towel. And he was about to throw it in and disqualify me. He was tough, and he had high expectations, and that’s what he demanded of his athletes.”

Before Dotson became UNM’s wrestling coach, he was an assistant coach coach at Western State in Colorado (where he received his Master’s degree) and later was the head coach at Northern Michigan.

“The way he coached, he was a player’s coach, so to speak,” Charlie Dotson said. “He brought a different perspective (being) from Iowa. He changed the culture a little bit.”

Charlie Dotson said the family moved to New Mexico “for $12,000 and a car in 1980.”

Bill Dotson — who coached a total of 36 years in high school and college — also is a member of the UNI Athletic Hall of Fame, the Division II Wrestling Hall of Fame, the Iowa High School Wrestling Hall of Fame and the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame. In addition to his coaching, Dotson was a longtime wrestling official, working numerous NCAA events.

Dotson is survived by his second wife, Linda Dotson, and four children: Charlie, Chad, and twins Scott and Stephanie. Funeral services are pending.

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