Earlier this season, as I've mentioned numerous times in this blog, Bermudian Springs head coach Dave McCollum did something just eight wrestling coaches in PIAA history have done, and that is win 500 career matches.
That is A LOT of winning for a long period of time. Take this into consideration, Bermudian Springs won 21 matches this year and winning at that rate to get to 500 victories would take just under 24 years to do. That's a long time in one place and some very quality teams.
McCollum sure has had his fair share of great teams over the years. From the 2008 team that fell to Burrell in the PIAA Class AA Championship match to the past two years where the Eagles fell short of reaching the team tournament, to the squad that has won six straight Division titles and nine of the last 10.
I was able to catch up with McCollum this past Saturday at Milton Hershey where Bermudian Springs downed Delone Catholic, 52-10 for third place in District 3.
We talked about the meaning of 500 wins, when it will sink in, some of the PIAA champions he's coached over the year, building the program and more. Enjoy.
Question: You won your 500th career match recently, what has that meant to you?
Answer: Well, that’s a tough question to answer. Obviously wrestling has always been a big part of my life and it’s always been important to me. Over the years I’ve tried to be a good role model for our team and our kids -- trying to be consistent for Bermudian Springs. The 500 wins is really, I guess you could say, a nice thing, it’s a great accomplishment, but like I said, I love this sport, I love the kids and I guess that just comes with it. I’ve been lucky and fortunate to have great community support, a school that supports wrestling and all the other sports. With that being said, that’s certainly enabled me to get to the 500-win level.
Question: What is the significance of the victory?
Answer: I guess it pretty much tells what wrestling means to me. It was always important to me, even when I got started.
Question: Have you let it sink in or at what point do you think it will sink in?
Answer: Not yet. I started wrestling in seventh grade, I loved it. I struck with it from junior high through college. It formed my personality and my lifestyle and I felt like I wanted to stick with it and give back to the sport that’s been so good to me over all those years.
Question: When you first started, in your wildest imagination did you still see yourself coaching in 2015?
Answer: No. I never really think about it much. I go from one year to the next. I’m looking forward to next year already. We only have three seniors in our lineup, most of the year, today we had four, so we have a great group of kids coming back next year and we’re already talking about summer team camp and what we’re going to do this summer and get ready for next season.
Question: How was the process in building the program in the early days and what’s changed over time?
Answer: In the very beginning, I started my own intermural program with the elementary kids and I ran that in the evening after high school practice a couple days a week. Eventually we got the Outlaw Club for the younger kids - some parents volunteered and ran the Outlaw Club for years - and we went from that to the Bermudian Springs youth wrestling program that a bunch of volunteer programs run right now. So really, you got to have a youth program nowadays to compete. You’ve got to start young and we saw that way back, like 10-15 years ago. That’s one of the big things that’s kept us competitive over the years. When we get kids into the high school they’ve already been through the technique part of it and have learned the sport already. We just have to clean it up on the high school level.
Question: You have coached 3 different PIAA Champions, what What unique quality have they each shared?
Answer: Inner drive and hard workers, willing to put in extra time out of the room.
Question: What is one thing that has been unique about each of them?
Answer: Different? Well, it’s a good question. Trevor (Byers), the first state champion, he was very good on his feet and very tough to ride - strong, physical kid in good shape. Rickey (Schmelyun) was a little bit of everything, he was strong, had great grip, a great finesse wrestler, tremendous technique on the mat, on top and on his feet. Ricky had everything. Tristan (Sponseller) was very strong, very intelligent wrestler, strong mind, great technique on his feet, difficult to ride and was could score from the top. I’d say he and Ricky were similar.
Question: Over the years you have coached there has been numerous changes to the sport; What has been the BEST change?
Answer: You know, that’s a tough one.
Question: What about the worst?
Answer: The worst change, I think, is this weight loss plan we have to follow. I have kids who are down in weight that can’t wrestle at that weight because the weight loss program says they can’t. It’s very frustrating. I think it’s the worst thing that happened to high school wrestling - this weight loss program that was forced on us by whoever, the NWCA. I know they need to have some kind of guideline, but I could’ve have had 3 or 4 kids who could have been in my lineup a lot earlier but can’t be because the weight loss plan doesn’t allow them. The reason is because when they get assessed they are too fat or too heavy and they haven’t dedicated themselves to get down to that weight. Especially if they are football players. I don’t like it, never liked it, but you gotta deal with it.
Question: When you first began coaching, who was the first wrestler to walk through those doors?
Answer: That would’ve been Rich Lanker, Randy Spahr. I mean these guys were back from my first year. We only had six guys on the team.
Question: If you had to create an all-Bermudian Springs wrestling team with kids you have coaches. What names would we see on the list?
Answer: I don’t know if I could answer that right now. I’d have to think about that one, I’d leave somebody out.
Current and former wrestlers, or anyone who's been impacted by coach McCollum, do you have a favorite moment of coach McCollum that you'd like to share? Or something that he's taught you that sticks out?
Sound off in the comments section below, tweet them to me @ameaseYDR or email them to me firstname.lastname@example.org. The best will appear in next week's York-Adams Wrestle Weekly.