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Catching Up with UVA Head Coach Steve Garland

By VAWA, 01/28/16, 11:15AM EST


Coach Garland reflects on 10 years as UVA head coach

January 28, 2016

Catching up with UVA Head Coach Steve Garland

1: Entering your 10th year as head wrestling coach at your alma mater, where do you see the state of the program now as opposed to when you first came in?

Where I see our program as opposed to when I first came in is at a good place but certainly not where we ultimately want to be. We have continued to improve each year and have broken through the nationally rankings slowly but surely. We went from 25th in 2008 to then through the top 20, to the top 15, then into the top 12 in 2012 then into the top ten in 2013 and 2014…winning two ACC Championships along the way. So we have been able to break new ground and accomplish some pretty cool things. But make no mistake, we are not where we want to be. The expectation has changed for our guys individually and for our program as a whole. We truly want to contend for an NCAA team title. We truly want to see our student athletes win NCAA individual titles as well. It can happen.

2: You have been a highly successful recruiter in your tenure at Virginia. What kind of prospect are you looking for and what has been the key to your success?

This is such a great question. I am constantly thinking about how to answer this and how to live out that answer practically in my own life. I would say we are looking for three things..a guy who is 1) Obsessed (absolutely fixed on the process and has a deep burning intrinsic fire to push himself daily and get better every single day…to be the best he can be and max out on the gifts and talents he has been given) 2) Fearless (it doesn’t matter what singlet the other guy has on, he has confidence in himself and trusts his coaches and his teammates fully. He competes in such a way that shows no fear) and 3) He loves wrestling. Sounds like a simple concept but most kids I recruit love winning or they love glory. They don’t necessarily love wrestling. I want the guy who absolutely loves the sport.

3: Talk about your coaching staff of Jordan Leen, Keith Gavin, and Shelton Mack and the impact they have on the Virginia program.

My coaching staff is such a blessing. Each one brings something different to the table. Jordan Leen is a dreamer. He’s a guy that wants to double leg the moon. He believes in himself. He is the guy I just talked about in the question above. He has no fear in him. This is why he won an NCAA title at Cornell. He just thinks he can accomplish anything and that rubs off on me and the kids. He’s convinced me we can go even more here. Go higher, farther and be greater. It is great! Keith Gavin is the best wrestling mind I have ever been around. He has brought so much to our room on so many levels and Shelton has been a breath of fresh air for our entire program. We are in a good place in terms of staff.

4: With your experience coaching at Cornell and now at Virginia, talk about the special kind of athlete who can handle the challenges of Div. I wrestling at a highly-academic college.

The student that chooses us really needs to be prepared to be stretched academically. It is just really hard here. They need to be ready to compete in the classroom here just like on the mat. It is that simple.

5: As a native New Yorker, UVA alum, former assistant coach at Cornell, and now a Virginia resident the past ten years, you’ve spent your entire life in New York and Virginia.  What do you miss about New York and what are some of your favorite parts about raising a family in Charlottesville, Virginia?

This is also a really great question. What do I miss about New York? The FOOD!!!!!! I grew up in the restaurant business in Middletown, NY. My grandfather, who is full blown Italian (Archie Barberio) owned and operated a very successful restaurant called Archie’s Inn. The memories of hanging out there as a kid are still so deep in my heart. The other side of the family (my father’s side) are Irish and that side is a big big crew. My grandmother Garland was the greatest human I have ever met. She gave birth to and raised 8 kids…8 kids! She was so tough. So I miss my family more than anything. However, what I don’t miss is the pace, the anger, the gruffness of many of the folks up there. I hope that doesn’t come across the wrong way, but the people down south are just so pleasant to be around. I just really enjoy the folks down here. I think this place is the most beautiful place I have ever been and I love it here. My kids have a great school, we live in a safe and beautiful neighborhood, we are part of an amazing Church family….so my family is in a good place. Such a good place and I’m very thankful for that.

6: Last summer you had the opportunity to coach some of America’s best high school aged athletes at the 2015 Cadet World Championships.  Describe your experience with USA Wrestling and FCA Wrestling.

I was actually helping serve with the Junior World team in Brazil. It was an amazing experience. I was actually a team Chaplain for the group. I got to live and train and do life with these guys for more than two weeks (some time out at the OTC and then time with them competing in Salvador, Brazil). I had the chance to do a formal teaching on Hebrews 12, I got to lead a devotional in Brazil and I got to serve these kids hands on day in and day out. I met some incredible people and learned a ton about wrestling and about life. I hope to be able to do it each year moving forward.

7: Who were the top influences in your development as a wrestling coach and how did they help you develop your skills?

My top influences as a wrestling coach are first Rob Koll. He taught me everything I knew about the business for the first 6 years of my career. He believed in me, invested in me, pushed me and rewarded me. He helped me more than I can explain in words. Once I got to Virginia my biggest influences have been other coaches here at UVA..guys like Tony Bennet, Brian Boland and Kevin Sauer. These guys have poured into me personally and have lived out what it means to be a great coach. It is humbling.

8: After developing relationships and working with so many guys over the course of your coaching career, what makes your current senior class stand out in your mind?

I think the current group is special b/c they stuck with it. So many kids quit when things don’t go their way and I’m so proud that this group has stayed with this even through all the hard times. So proud of them for that. They are also very bright. All of them had over a 3.4 GPA last semester. That is incredible to me. They are all driven and will do well undoubtedly in the future.

9: Do you have any young Cavaliers that may not be well known that fans should watch out for as 2016 begins?

We have some great young kids. I think all of them can do great things.

10: You currently serve on the Board of the Directors for the National Wrestling Coaches Association and have served on the NCAA Division I Wrestling Rules Committee in the past.  From those experiences, what encourages you about the future of wrestling the most?

What encourages me about the future of our sport is that now the leaders of programs are working harder than ever. They are hungry and are willing to do more than what used to be done. Everyone is hustling now. It is really amazing. Guys want to win and they are willing to look inside and change what they need to in their own hearts and own lives first, then push their athletes to do the same. That is a very good thing for our sport.