When I was a child, my father, who was a collegiate swim coach, took me to the pool. I could barely walk, but it was time for me to learn how to swim. I was immediately thrown into the pool with the words “sink or swim” echoing around the building. I managed to pass this early survival test and old school parenting technique. New Bloomsburg University Head Wrestling Coach Marcus Gordon is looking to not only survive, but thrive during his current baptism by fire. Named the head coach less than a month ago, he now leads the Huskies into the 2016-17 season. He began the season as a head coach without a staff and competition was less than a month away.
It has been seven years since the last Husky stood on the podium for Bloomsburg when Matt Moley accomplished the feat in back-to-back years. There is incredible history surrounding the University that was founded in 1839 and has a student body population made up of nearly 90% in state Pennsylvania students. Located in the heart of Pennsylvania wrestling, the last two seasons under previous head coach Jason Mester have tested the wrestling program. If you are not familiar with the program, you are not the only one. The Huskies have lacked the coverage they deserve as a program with three top-ten finishes in its history. Coach Gordon is working to rebuild a program that secured only one dual win the last two seasons. He has already matched that total in his first competitive week.
The recent hiring of assistant coach Russ Hughes will only deepen this University’s recruiting ties to the state of Pennsylvania and jump start its success. It is time for Bloomsburg to come out from Under the Radar and meet the wrestling community. We invited head coach Marcus Gordon to answer a few questions for us.
TOM – Congratulations on the two dominating wins in your head coaching debut for the Huskies. Can you take us through the emotions of your first Division I coaching victories over Davidson and Keystone?
MG – I was incredibly proud of our young team. It is an honor to coach student-athletes at this level and I believe it is my duty to help these young men succeed on and off the mat. These two wins went a long way toward building confidences in our individual athletes and our team. I feel that this was a positive start to a great season.
TOM – Did you expect to make the transition from assistant to head coach as quickly as you did? You were with the program for three years before assuming the responsibilities associated with leading Bloomsburg.
MG – It was always my goal to become a Head Coach. I had the privilege of working under two talented coaches that helped prepare me for this challenge and I am grateful for their contributions to my career. The resignation of Coach Mester was unexpected but I was ready to assume the responsibilities and am completely committed to the success of this program.
TOM – You do not have a returning national qualifier from the 2015-16 season, but you have some experienced upperclassmen on the roster this year. What do you expect from them this season that will help Bloomsburg return to the national tournament this March?
MG – We are currently starting eight freshman and two upperclassmen. Our returning wrestlers are strong leaders in the room and are expected to do good things this year. Brendon Colbert was one match from the tournament last year and has already put away a win against a returning national qualifier this season. I am confident in our wrestlers’ abilities and will continue working hard to get these guys ready for St. Louis.
TOM – You dual two Big Ten schools less than a week apart. What do you want to see from not only your upperclassmen but your younger wrestlers when they take on wrestlers from arguably the toughest conference?
MG – I think it is important to wrestle a competitive schedule because those are the wrestlers you are going to meet at the national tournament. I expect our guys to go out there and wrestle hard for seven minutes and look to score from all positions.
TOM – Have you and the administration discussed what defines Bloomsburg as a successful program? What steps are you taking as the head coach to take it to that place? Does your definition differ than what the University expects?
MG – The administration and I have discussed our goals for the program and we are on the same page. It is very important to recruit the right student-athletes that can excel on and off the mat and build on the rich tradition of Bloomsburg University wrestling.
TOM – Is there a particular dual or tournament this season you plan on using as a measurement for how your team looks or are you all about the EWL and national tournaments?
MG – With such a young team, every competition will be used as a measurement. Obviously, some are more important than others, but with eight freshmen in the line-up, it is very important to evaluate where we are and where we need to improve. This will ensure we are making strides in the correct areas so we are ready to compete at a high level in March at the EWL Championships.
TOM – What is Bloomsburg looking for in a student-athlete? What type of young man are you looking to add to your program going forward?
MG – I am looking to add student-athletes that understand the importance of academics and hard work. Wrestling is a great sport that takes a lot of dedication to achieve goals at the highest level and I want student-athletes that are willing to completely commit to achieving their goals on and off the mat.
TOM – You hear a lot about athletes “buying into” a coaches philosophy? Do you feel like your wrestlers understand what you expect from them and what you are giving them in return?
MG – Every coach has their own philosophy of what it takes to win at a high level and I believe that when you get the entire team buying into your philosophy, whatever that might be, good things happen. Over the last few weeks, I believe the team has bought into my philosophy. I am giving them my time, loyalty, and commitment in all areas of their life. As a college coach, you are an educator first and foremost. So, I want to make sure that all of my athletes know I am there to help them grow as a student, athlete, and person.
TOM – You are in an incredible area full of talented high school wrestlers. What are your goals for harvesting in-state talent? How do you go about recruiting against some very successful programs from all levels of the NCAA?
MG – We are located in a state the produces a lot of great wrestlers, which means a lot of great colleges are recruiting this state so there are challenges that come with it. I think it is very important to recruit PA wrestlers and I am confident by doing so we can build a very strong team. Recruiting is the lifeline of a program and we must find the student-athlete that is the right fit for our program.
TOM – If a student-athlete was thinking about continuing their career at the Division I level, why Bloomsburg?
MG – Bloomsburg is a beautiful campus located in a great community that understands the tradition of BU wrestling. We are a very close family that has high expectations on and off the mat. When a student-athlete surrounds himself with people that share this mindset they can accomplish their goals.
If you are athlete thinking of continuing your career in Division I wrestling check out Bloomsburg’s “recruiting page”. Follow them on Instagram and Twitter as well. Good luck this year to Bloomsburg and head coach Marcus Gordon.