Inside the Monarchy
Wrestling opponents and wrestling the books at the same time
by Rich Radford
I ran into Old Dominion University wrestling coach Steve Martin at Norfolk International about a month ago. I was taking a long-overdue vacation. He was headed to Las Vegas, not to gamble but to compete. He had a few of his wrestlers with him and they were headed for the ASICS championships.
I say this in hindsight, but the kids Martin had in his company were true gentlemen that day. Polite, well dressed, well behaved. They helped others on the flight with their bags, made room for others in the waiting area. If you don’t think the little things count, believe me they do. They didn’t know someone was watching them. They were just being good, upstanding human beings.
Martin and his guys boarded the short flight to Charlotte. Once there, our paths went separate ways and I wished him good fortunes.
I was not in the least bit surprised when ODU’s wrestling team had the second-highest grade point average among all Division I programs. They were second to Harvard. Now that, my friends, is fast competition.
“To be mentioned in the same sentence as Harvard shows we have arrived academically as a program,” Martin said.
The Martin family has a decades-long reputation for producing quality wrestlers and sometimes the true moment – the diploma – gets lost in the fray. But Martin’s teams at ODU have been bleeding academic excellence of late. This is the third time in four years that the wrestling team has ranked among the top eight academically, no small feat.
This year’s team posted a 3.32 grade point average, the highest in the program’s history. Harvard had a 3.36 (which might have someone saying “If only ...” or “that darn biology test.”).
Finishing in the Monarchs’ academic wake were teams from Brown, Duke, Stanford, Cornell and Northwestern.
Double major Tristan Warner continued to pace the Monarchs with a 3.97 GPA as he pursues degrees in communications and criminal justice. Yes, he made the Academic All-America team. Not only that, he was the sole recipient of the Elite 89 Award which goes to the athlete at each NCAA Championship event site with the highest GPA.
Naturally, ODU can put its name in the spotlight with championships, but the first thing a coach must do to hone a champion is recruit one. Winning over parents just got easier for Martin, because parents love to hear about what a coach can do for their child from an academic standpoint.
And a gentlemanly standpoint as well.