“If your why’s not right, nothing’s right.” That phrase is an important one for University of Virginia Head Coach Steve Garland and one that he will often repeat during serious and informal discussions. The “why” refers to his inspiration to accomplish a particular goal. As we sit in Garland’s office chatting about common topics that a media member and wrestling coach tend to discuss a month before the season starts (season projections, the status of highly regarded freshman, reviewing the past year), the theme shifts to Coach Garland’s “why.”
Steve is entering his thirteenth year at the helm as head coach of the Cavaliers wrestling program. In his last year as an assistant at Cornell in 2005-06, he was named the NWCA Assistant Coach of the Year. Shortly after that, he was named the 12th wrestling coach at his alma mater, Virginia. Add in a growing family, and it seems like the perfect situation for one of the youngest head coaches in the nation. However, Garland was not happy with the person he had become, and he found faith during 2007. Instead of his “why” being centered around himself and personal accolades, it would be focused on how he could best glorify God. He would also shift the focus from just wins and losses, which could lead to potential temptations to take shortcuts to achieve those goals, but to look at a bigger picture which he thinks better impacts his athletes, as well as those in his personal life. Targeting positive growth socially, spiritually, academically, Garland feels will only lead to growth as a wrestler, as well.
Steve came to Virginia in 1995 “without a car, a license, any money, a checking account, or a bike” yet was able to mature and work his way into the Cavalier lineup where he would culminate his career with an appearance in the NCAA finals after upsetting top-seeded Jody Strittmatter (Iowa) in the quarterfinals. In his 12 years at UVA, Garland has inherited a team that was coming off a 2006 season where they were not able to qualify any wrestlers for the national tournament and three years later coached his first All-American (Chris Henrich). A year later in 2009-10, he would be named ACC Coach of the Year after leading the Cavaliers to their first ACC title since 1977. Under Garland’s tutelage, six UVA wrestlers have gone on to capture All-American honors a total of 10 times, highlighted by George DiCamillo’s NCAA finals run in 2017. He was the first Cav to made an NCAA final since Garland did so himself in 2000. More than wins and All-American awards, a stat that Garland seems the proudest of is that 30 of his former wrestlers have gone on to earn a Master’s Degree, since 2006. “We have helped them build a foundation for the rest of their life,” says Garland.
The foundation has also been laid for future a bright future in Charlottesville. Their 2018-19 lineup will feature a young, hungry group. With 2017 All-American Jack Mueller taking a redshirt to focus on preparing for the U23 World Championships in mid-November, the Cavaliers could feature as many as five freshmen. While Garland admits the on-mat results in 2017-18 “weren’t what we wanted,” in evaluating the season overall, he found a feeling of peace that he had rarely felt before getting to work with the group of young men on that team and then-new assistant coaches Travis and Trent Paulson.
It was just announced a few weeks ago that the UVA wrestling program would be receiving a facelift on campus, as would the rest of the Olympic sports. Athletic Director Carla Williams, who is in her first full year on the job, has laid plans for a massive renovation that will include the construction of a brand new state-of-the-art Olympic sports complex adjacent to John Paul Jones Arena, in the area where University Hall, which houses the UVA wrestling offices and practice facility currently sits. The idea of being able to feature brand new facilities that rival any program in the country, in addition to Virginia’s academic offerings, is very appealing to Garland as he ponders the future of the program. “I believe what you’re going to see in the next five-year span is going to crush anything that’s ever happened in the course of the program, and not just in wins, but the culture of our program.”
Here are a series of videos with Head Coach Steve Garland as we tour the UVA campus and then talk about the Cavalier team.
Steve Garland at John Paul Jones Arena
Steve Garland at the UVA Athletes-Only Dining Area
Steve Garland and the UVA Academic Center
Steve Garland Interview