The two coaches' paths have long been intertwined. Both are products of the Chickasha High School wrestling program. Surber wrestled at Chickasha from 1990-1993, placing fourth in the state tournament as a sophomore and winning the state title his senior year.
Surber went on to become an All-American wrestler at the University of Central Oklahoma, and spent five years as an assistant coach to Chad Randle at Chickasha High School from 2000-2005. He coached Ford for three of those years. In the fall of 2005, Surber left for Tuttle.
Ford wrestled at Chickasha from 2001-2004. He was a four-time state placer, winning the state title his sophomore year, which was Surber's first year as an assistant for the Chicks. He is Chickasha's all-time wins leader at 134 career wins.
"He was a good kid to have," Surber said of Ford. "He was a hard worker, did things right, wrestled hard. I don't know that Chickasha has had many four-time state placers."
Although he didn't begin wrestling until seventh grade, Ford took to the sport like a natural. He placed in a state tournament each year from eighth grade through high school, despite competing against wrestlers who had dedicated their entire lives to the sport.
"What's funny with Erik, is that it took me a full year to recruit him out for wrestling, because he thought he was a basketball player," Randle said. "He wasn't the fastest. He was a little skinny kid, just like I was. Athletic, but not very fast and with a competitive nature."
Randle, who coached Surber for one year, said Surber and Ford were very alike. Ford said Surber's presence and coaching contributed to his success at Chickasha.
"He was a great wrestling coach," Ford said of Surber. "Huge, huge to have. Coach Randle is an amazing coach, but it was huge to have another guy that was a wrestling mind. He was somebody who really made you think about the sport."
Surber said as Ford got older and went off to college, he began to see potential in Ford as a coach.
"He's a student of the sport," Surber said. "He understands it, he follows it."
Randle said the way Ford approaches the sport is what lends him to being a coach.
"He's a thinker," Randle said. "And that's what I consider myself. There are some people that can be great wrestlers, but may not be as good as a coach. Because it's one thing to do it, it's another thing to have to show someone what you're talking about."
Ford went on to wrestle at the University of Oklahoma for three years, where he said he "got beat up a lot". Nearing the end of his college career, he realized he had some choices to make.
"Through college you get that whole 'what are you going to do with your life' feeling, and I just felt like it was something that was really calling me," he said about coaching. "Something I knew I would enjoy and be passionate about."
Randle said he advised Ford to pursue coaching out of college, at least until he figured out if there was something else he wanted to do.
"When he was about to graduate, he wasn't sure what he wanted to do," Randle said. "I don't know if it had anything to do with me, but I told him 'If you don't know what you're going to do, you need to go ahead and get your teaching certificate and start coaching until you figure it out.'"
Ford's first coaching job was as a lay coach at John Marshall High School in Oklahoma City. He was there for one year, before the Piedmont job came open in 2010. Ford had figured it out.