It’s easy for someone to follow along with a basketball or hockey game. Players move around a court or the ice, they pass, they shoot, they score. Of course, anyone in the sports world knows that it is not that simple. For someone looking to follow along with a with a winning program, it’s easy to choose the men’s basketball team or women’s hockey. Though, the real dynasty in Brock Sports has been — and continues to be — the wrestling program.
“I still don’t believe that the community really understands the high level that all of our student-athletes compete at,” said Neil Lumsden, Brock Sports Director of Athletics. “[When it comes to] Brock wrestling, [they] deserve all the credit they receive and more.”
Marty Calder, who was first an athlete at Brock, University has helped lead the program to 24 national championships and 35 OUA championships since joining the program in 1994.
“I’m going to be candid, I didn’t choose to come to Brock, I got completely pushed to come here,” Calder said when asked what drew him to the St. Catharines university as an athlete in the 1980s. “Just like any young kid, you want to get away from home, I got recruited pretty heavily, I [originally] decided to go to York, but the [Brock] coach said I needed to give it a shot here. It worked out very well for me.”
Entering his ninth season as head coach, Calder has amassed 17 OUA coach of the year honours, and 16 CIS coach of the year honours.
“I built a passion for our team, even when I was an athlete, we were trying to build the program, it became like a family for me, but I became a part of trying to make this special.”
Lumsden said of Calder, “His ability to get the best out of his student-athletes is one of the key reasons for his team’s successes. Marty and his staff may very well be one of the best if not the best group of wrestling coaches in Canada.”
At the root of Brock’s success — for Calder — is leadership. From the coaching staff to the athletes, it’s what defines their success.
“When you have good leaders — and that’s not just me — that’s our whole coaching staff, people who have passion and are hungry to get results, willing to make sacrifices, it branches down and creates a culture.”
Last season, Brock’s men’s and women’s wrestling teams captured the U Sports National Championship for the fourth straight year, and won both the men’s and women’s OUA championships. The wrestling program at Brock has succeeded beyond expectations, but for Calder, each title that is earned raises those expectations.
“It would be easy for us to compete at the U Sports championships and be done at that, but we’re just so beyond that now. World championships, junior worlds, senior worlds, U Sports is sort of a developmental league for us now. There’s so much more,” Calder said.
Lumsden also commented on the success Brock wrestling has had beyond the OUA and U Sports championships.
“What takes it over the top is when Brock wrestlers get a chance to represent Canada on the international stage. That’s something that sets them apart from all other sports.”
Brock has produced multiple world class wrestlers, including Michelle Fazzari, Jasmine Mian, Jessica MacDonald, and Tonya Verbeek. Though their success didn’t come overnight, their respect was earned by continuing to win throughout the years. The athletes Brock has put in the Olympics have set the bar.
“The dream is to go to the Olympics, and to truly give it a go. It’s competitive, that’s the biggest thing, because people naturally are not born to go through a sport like this, it’s not natural to work at that level and make those sacrifices,” Calder said of the training programs his athletes go through.
A huge aspect to building a program is recruiting, which year to year, gets more competitive.
“What Marty, his coaches and the coaches before him have built is a legacy of excellence — something all athletes aspire to be part of. Recruiting is a tough gig even when you have the preeminent wrestling program in the country. It’s not just about finding great talent, [it’s about] looking for good students, quality young people and student-athletes that love to compete,” Lumsden said.
“There’s so many things these kids have to give up,” Calder said of the student-athletes he has recruited and coached. “There’s resistance, your body doesn’t feel like training, you don’t train, but those days they don’t feel great they still have to get better, that’s something we’ve really been able to embrace.”
People like Marty Calder who have had such immense success over a prolonged coaching career don’t go unnoticed. Much like Dave Smart — who has been the head coach of Carleton’s men’s basketball team since 1999 — there have been other opportunities for Calder over the years.
“Yeah, there’s jobs available, have I thought about it? Absolutely. I’m always trying to better myself and be involved in exciting events in our sport. I got offered to be with the national team a few years ago, but I’ve got two kids and I’m not going to leave them. We’re building something here that is even more family.”
Though Calder has already built a Hall of Fame career, he doesn’t feel like he’s anywhere close to being done.
““I don’t have a plan. It’s not going to be soon that I’m done, I’m passionate about what I do.”