Daniel Coles: Canadian Catalyst for Change
In His Own Words
When I was 5 years old, my father took some older wrestlers to the United States for a wrestling tournament. To help give my mom a relaxing weekend home alone, he brought my siblings and me along with him. He asked me and my brothers if we wanted to try wrestling because the tournament had a little kids division, so we said, "Sure!" The problem is that we had never even had single wrestling practice before. I spent a lot of time on my back that day. After I lost, I remember being mad at my dad because I kept losing. While he kept telling me that it was okay and that I should try to have fun, I told my dad that I wanted to win and that losing was not fun! I told my dad that I needed to start doing wrestling practice like all of the other kids at the tournament. That was the moment in my life when I realized that I loved winning and hated losing ... lol!
We don't cut a lot of weight in our home, however, my siblings and I still need to eat very
smart, because we begin to carry a lot of extra body fat as soon as we start to eat poorer quality foods. Some kids are lucky and can eat whatever they want; they always seem to be lean, but that is not our family. Self-control is a lesson that wrestling taught me very young. I remember one year when my friends were offering me some of their Halloween candy and I had to say no because I had a wrestling tournament coming up and I wanted to be in the best shape possible. For most kids, a few chocolate bars are no big deal, but when I eat this way I quickly become "Chubby Danny." Wrestling has taught me self-control; this has been a huge help in my life. Now I have the ability to make better decisions even when they are tough decisions.
We are not a financially wealthy family, but the amount of time, energy, and money they have invested to help me succeed is simply MASSIVE! We live in Canada where there are very little high-quality wrestling programs or tournaments. My parents have literally driven me tens of thousands of miles to attend the best wrestling events all over the United States. My first folkstyle tournament was the RMN Aztec Warrior Championships in New Mexico. We couldn't afford to fly, so my father drove my siblings and
I to that tournament all the way from Canada. You know that we drive a lot, when we are excited that we only have to drive 20 hours to the Rocky Mountain Nationals in Denver! When we had to move provinces in Canada, my mother or father would drive me 3 hours to Calgary for wrestling practice, 6 hours round trip, 5 days per week.
Reg Laroque was my first coach ... if you didn't know him well, you would think he was crazy ... but when you were one of his athletes, you realized he was only CRAZY about wrestling. After Coach Reg passed away, Coach Mike Dunn taught me so much. Coach Dunn has been cranking out Canadian national champions for decades. Coach Neal Ewers in Toronto is a young coach that has a contagious energy ... he reminds me why I love wrestling. National Team Coach McKay has been a major force for me, as he has more than 30 years of experience coaching ... having him in my corner gives me incredible confidence, because not only is he an Olympian himself, but he has been there in the corner when one of his wrestlers won an Olympic Gold Medal.
And the coach that has impacted my technique more than any other coach is World Champion and Olympic Silver medalist Gia Sissaouri ... he taught me to be passionate about making wrestling beautiful. Through Coach Gia, I came to understand that wrestling isn't just banging heads and being tougher than your opponent. Rather the wrestling mat has become my canvas where I can artistically and creatively express my craft. I once read an article about what it means to be an "artisan.” It said that “Artisans practice a craft and may through experience and aptitude reach the expressive levels of an artist.” When I read that definition, I realized that I wanted this philosophy to apply to my own wrestling.
For many years, my older brother Christoff was my only training partner. Wrestling is a REALLY hard sport! Even though Christoff became a Canadian National Champion, injuries ended his own Olympic dreams. Without Christoff, there is no chance that I would be where I am today. Christoff and I are already part of great coaching staff helping other young Canadian wrestlers achieve their own Olympic dreams. My plan is to participate in 3 Olympics as an athlete. When I am finished with my own career, I look forward to continue coaching with my big brother Christoff.
I am homeschooled; even though my schooling doesn't take place inside the same 4 walls every day, I have been able to train with other homeschooled wrestlers and accomplish things that probably would not have been possible if I was in the same building daily.
RMN events have been a huge part of my development. My first year competing at RMN events, I got my butt kicked ... literally. I went 0-2 in my first tournament. But I wanted to go back to the next event, because I saw that there was amazing competition. Plus, I loved the energy of the events ... and, if I am totally honest, I REALLY wanted one of those big trophies! Fortunately, I stuck with it, because in my senior year in high school, I was able to win every RMN event that I entered, including the big one: Rocky Mountain National Championships. While there this March, one of the highlights of my wrestling career was when Ed Gutierrez presented me with the Triple Crown in Denver as the first Canadian to ever win that incredible award.
There has never been a Canadian-raised man to win the NCAA championship (Matt Gentry had dual citizenship but was raised in the United States), so I will work hard at this goal. Also, I really believe that if I continue to train hard that I can become a World and Olympic Champion. This might seem like a stretch, but if you would have told me 4 years ago, after badly losing all my matches at the RMN in Denver, that in just a few years I would be able to dominate all of my competitors at the same event, then I might have thought that was a stretch. But I kept working hard and I was able to become a champion in Denver; thus if I keep working hard, I know I can become a champion in Paris 2024.
Young wrestlers need to think about what they want to accomplish in our sport. My advice is that if you want to be a state champion, then find out how state champions train and then train harder. If you want to become a national champion, then find out how national champions train and then train harder. If you want to become a World Champion, then find out how World Champions train and then train harder. I never get too hung up on a particular match or a particular moment in a match, especially in folkstyle where I am still learning the rules and intricacies of the style. My dad and I are not results driven yet, we are improvement driven. The most upset my dad has been all year with me was when I ankle laced my opponent 3 times and won the match too quickly, I could have gotten more out of that match … we really only worry about getting better at this point. The wins will come on their own.
Wrestling has changed my life in many powerful ways because WRESTLING IS HARD. It is not considered polite to say things that might sound critical of other sports, but let’s ask an honest question: Can anyone say that baseball, or basketball, or soccer or is harder than wrestling? Of course, being the best at any sport requires thousands and thousands of hours training, and there is an incredible amount of skill that goes into becoming a great pitcher, short stop, or home-run hitter, but let's just be truthful: an hour of baseball practice is a breeze compared to an hour of wrestling practice. Wrestlers need to be prepared to put their body through the pain and exhaustion as a competitor, while resisting everything your opponent does at the same time, as he tries to throw you down and hold you on your back ... yeah, it feels a LOT EASIER to work on my jump shot.
My parents have taught me that if I am organized with my time that I shouldn't have to wait until I am finished with my personal career before I begin to coach and give back to younger athletes. Currently, I am coaching some of the best kids in Canada. Because I am often very busy travelling and training, I cannot be the only coach for the athletes I am working with, but I am fortunate to part of a great team of coaches who are working with some great wrestlers who you will see at the Olympics in 2024 Paris and 2028 Los Angeles. I plan on wrestling at the Olympics alongside several of the athletes that I introduced into our great sport.
Information on Alavanca (formerly MMAU)
Calgary, Alberta - Canada By Ali Bryan, Team Coordinator)
The wrestling program at Alavanca (formerly MMAU) launched in October, 2017 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Alavanca is Portuguese for “Leverage.” The facility, specializing in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai, quickly embraced the program. Under the direction of Cory Coles, the club employs a training regimen and program that is unique and perhaps even a little unorthodox in Canada. The student-to-coach ratio is very low, the quality of instruction high. The older athletes regularly train and mentor the younger ones, developing leadership skills and improving their technique in the process.
The club is committed to its elite athletes and supports frequent competition outside of the province and country. Rocky Mountain National tournaments have been a critical part of the club’s strategy in developing its wrestlers. The United States is a huge market with a significant number of tournaments and simply more wrestlers. Training is always functional and connected to wrestling movement patterns. No beep tests here. Opportunities to compete in different styles, such as folkstyle, have prepared our athletes for success in freestyle. Focusing on a North-South strategy led to an affiliation with the Delchev Trained Academy (DTA). With a first-rate facility and a compatible coaching philosophy, some of Alavanca’s athletes often train with Coach Ivan Delchev, representing the DTA at tournaments in the U.S.
The club has a strong focus on technique – even for recreational athletes – and an even stronger focus on the big picture. It is not rare that a match might be used strictly to focus on executing a new move, even if it means a loss. The intent is to master the move so that it can be applied for future use, adding depth to an athlete’s repertoire and increasing probability of future success.
The strategies seem to be working. Since its inception, many of the club’s athletes have gone on to win large tournaments in Canada and the U.S. Wrestler Adam Thompson recently won Gold medals in both n 80kg Freestyle and Greco Roman categories at the Canadian National Championships. In one month of wrestling, sixteen-year old Gabriel Durocher won his first high school tournament, successfully beating opponents who’d been training for several years. Pippa Bryan, a thirteen-year old, earned silver at Rocky Mountain Nationals in both middle school and high school brackets with five months of training. She also won gold at the Alberta Winter Games. And Danny Coles became the first Canadian to ever win the Rocky Mountain National Folkstyle Championships. In its first year, Alavanca produced many provincial and national champions and the number of athletes in the wrestling program has tripled since January.