A child that gets into fights may have a very promising career in the sport of wrestling.
At least, that's what Penn assistant coach Brian Dolph discovered as his career in wrestling began to flourish in college.
Dolph has now developed into one of the nation's top technicians, despite getting a very late start in wrestling.
In his formative years, the native of North Canton, Ohio, played America's three mainstream sports -- baseball, basketball, and football.
His first taste of wrestling was in middle school gym class after moving to an area where the sport was very prominent.
"The gym teacher was also the wrestling coach at the middle school and he was trying to get me to wrestle," Dolph said. "I guess he saw that I had potential in wrestling, but I told him I didn't want to wrestle because I played basketball [in the winter season]."
Eventually, however, as Dolph's high school career began, he found himself with more and more reasons to wrestle.
"I grew up in a rough neighborhood, so I got into a lot of fights," Dolph admitted. "The new neighborhood I moved into was a higher class society, and fighting there was really frowned upon. But I still found myself getting into fights and in trouble.
"I ended up becoming friends with some wrestlers, and everyone suggested to me that I should probably wrestle to keep myself out of trouble."
Dolph agreed, giving up his other three sports to concentrate on wrestling at Hoover High School under the guidance of coaching legend Walt Tolarchyk.
As he began to pursue wrestling seriously, Dolph found himself drawn to the sport more and more.
"I like the intensity and I think I was a natural at wrestling, being built and athletic," Dolph said. "It just fell into place and I had immediate success."
Dolph took his success to the University of Indiana, where he decided to matriculate after high school.
"I really liked the coach," Dolph said of Indiana coach Jim Humphrey. "He was a great coach and he came to my house and recruited me. I thought there was a connection there and that he'd be able to help me."
The combination of Dolph's discipline and Humphrey's teaching brought Indiana an NCAA Wrestling Champion in 1990, the school's first in 50 years.
"Winning NCAAs was really special because I spent five years in college working towards a specific goal and I accomplished it," Dolph said.
Along the way, Dolph also distinguished himself as a three-time NCAA All-American and a two-time Big Ten Champion.
After wrestling his way to the top of the collegiate ladder at 150 pounds, Dolph set his sights even higher.
"I moved to Philadelphia to train with Team Foxcatcher of Newtown Square," Dolph said. "I always had the dream of training for the Olympics."
Dolph ran into Humphrey and Penn head coach Roger Reina there, who were helping the team with their training.
"They built the relationship," Dolph said, "and that's where I met coach Reina and was put in my current position."
Reina does not take for granted at all the coaching and teaching abilities of Dolph, who will be entering his eighth season as a part of the Quakers coaching staff.
"Brian brings a tremendous amount of technique and great competitive experience," Reina said. "Over the years, he's developed as an excellent coach in terms of training, practice settings, scouting opponents and also during competition when he coaches from the corner."
Dolph, however, credits his technical expertise to those who have helped him in his own wrestling career.
"I'm just lucky," Dolph said, "because I had people throughout my career who were good teachers and had great technique."
But the avid outdoorsman, who loves to teach the sport to kids and collegians alike, has not completely replaced his wrestling career with a coaching career.
As a member of the Dave Schultz Wrestling Club, Dolph has grappled his way to a spot on the U.S. National Team four times.
Last year, Dolph qualified for the 2000 U.S. Olympic Team Trials and went on to the finals where he faced a student and good friend in Penn grad Brandon Slay.
Slay won by scores of 3-1, 5-2, but Dolph maintained a degree of composure that Reina believes is characteristic of his assistant coach.
"He's an example in terms of how he handles both success and disappointment in his run to make the 2000 Olympic team," Reina said. "He showed a real true heart with how he dealt with everything and went on to help Brandon train and scout opponents."
Dolph's assistance helped Slay take gold in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. It was the second time that year that Dolph had helped lead a Penn wrestler to the top, as then-Penn senior Brett Matter won the NCAA title at 157 pounds in March 2000.
"Brett did everything right all the time," Dolph said. "He believed in himself, and I believed in him."
Matter's coachability is something that Dolph, a music lover, feels is a part of every grappler that has run through the Penn wrestling program.
"When they come in, they want to learn," Dolph said. "I don't have to put a lot of energy and time trying to talk them into doing things. I see good people and I like to give myself to them as much as possible, and just the fact that these kids come in here and give themselves up to me shows me that they really care.
"And that's the best thing about Penn wrestling -- the heart and soul everyone has is great."
Dolph, who has come a long way since his childhood days, is certainly no exception.Comments powered by Disqus
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