When one thinks of Brock Badgers varsity sports, the teams that probably first come to mind are hockey, basketball, maybe baseball or lacrosse, but flying under the radar of the average Badgers fan is the elite wrestling program Brock has boasted for decades.
Head coach Marty Calder has been coaching wrestling for 26 years, after an illustrious playing career highlighted by two Olympic appearances in 1992 and 1996. His coaching resume includes 18 OUA Coach of the Year awards, nine U-Sports Coach of the Year awards, and 37 OUA Championships — across both men’s and women’s — in 26 seasons.
It’s no secret that defending a title can be even harder than winning the first one, which makes the program’s success even more impressive. How do you keep your players and staff motivated after 15 straight championships (men’s from 1995-2010)?
“Passion. Good leadership. I’m not just talking about me, I’m talking about the staff that is willing to put the work in,” said Calder. “Our kids are capable of world performances, and I think that’s what they’re after when they come to Brock, so I think that’s been a big selling point for our program.”
He added that the program cannot rely on the past and must work towards the future in order to maintain excellence.
“We do not look back. I think we’re able to get some confidence from competing and doing well and being successful, but we’re definitely not resting on our laurels… and it means a lot to us, that’s the thing, we’ve won five in a row in both men’s and women’s, and I feel like this one’s the most important.”
The early parts of this season have seen four competitions for both men and women, with both squads placing third once and first twice. Calder spoke on what he has liked and disliked in the early stages on the season.
“I feel like we’re inconsistent, so that’s one down part. I think the rookies have really shown some good promise, and that’s really important as we lost five starters from last year on the men’s side and two on the women’s, so we’re going to rely on some young kids, some new faces to be able to keep this thing going, so I think that’s been really promising for us,” said Calder.
As for this past weekend’s event, the York Open in Toronto, Calder said his teams will use this as preparation for next weekend’s major event, the Ontario Senior Championship. “It’s progression, it’s evolution, those types of things that’s what we’re looking at, there’s really not stakes as far as heading into a championship season,” said Calder. “I feel like we need to perform well to give us confidence and to reiterate that we’re doing the right things, but I’m not really looking at it from a performance standpoint, like ‘this is the time we have to win’”.
“We wrestle so much, and compete so much that we hold back guys — we’ve had four competitions, four in a row, and I’ll have guys wrestle three, so we kind of get a mixed team at times, so guys will be taking this weekend off so they can wrestle next weekend,” said Calder.
Calder has seen immense success as both a wrestler and coach, and credits his days competing as an important factor for him as a coach.
“I was fortunate when I was [at Brock] to coach while I was playing, so after I was done in ‘92 I became the assistant coach here, and it helped me learn from Richard [DesChatelets], who was the head coach at that time, and going to tournaments and serving as a coach at times when I wasn’t competing helped me learn the sport in greater detail; new mindsets, and tactics, and all that stuff so I feel like it helped balance me out.”
While the program insists on taking it one step at a time, the goal has been the same as always — a national championship.
“We’re striving for athletic excellence which means achieving our potential, which means winning a national championship,” said Calder. “If we don’t do that then I’m sure there’ll be lots of takeaways that we can say were positive, but for sure I think we’re capable of winning.”