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March 25, 2011 > Cougars wrestling coach instilling success in athletes

Cougars wrestling coach instilling success in athletes

By Mihir Bhagat

Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair and Brett Hart have all cemented a legacy for themselves as arguably the greatest wrestlers of all time. Locally, there's a true wrestling legend in Newark Memorial High's coach William Choate. Choate took on wrestling in the eighth grade and has utilized his ability to achieve major feats both as a competitor, as well as a coach, ever since.

Despite a learning curve during his first three years (22-30), continued determination and work ethic resulted in a turn of events in his junior year of high school when he won NCS sections one and two, and would go on to the state meet. Choate went 46-1 the following year and capped it off by claiming the California Interscholastic Federation title at 154 lbs.

Along the way he has learned a great deal about the sport, including the importance of individual drive.

"After getting into it I found that it was up to you on how you performed," Choate said. "There was no one else on the mat but you. Your teammates helped you in the preparation and supported you from the sidelines, but when it came down to it, it was just you and your opponent."

This wisdom was what allowed him to continue to wrestle beyond high school, first at Chabot College - where he won the 1978 Junior College State Championship - and later at Cal State Bakersfield - where he claimed the Division II Western Regional and was an All-American.

While many highly-skilled and accomplished athletes often don't translate into quality coaches, for Choate, it did. Currently, he's an integral part of the Newark Memorial Cougars wrestling program and just coached Katie Burdick to a CIF girls state title.

"This year's girls team was my most inexperienced to date, yet had great success," he stated. "Before the season started we had a solid seven girls returning and an additional 15 incoming. When it started, we had a total of eight, three of which had never competed in sport before."

Nevertheless, they all put up a great campaign and, in the North Coast Section tournament, five girls ended up in the finals which gave Newark a second place finish as a team. Choate's plan was to pass on the things to his team that proved successful for his time as a wrestler.

"I was a physical wrestler and gave it my all on the mat; I try to instill that into all my athletes both boys and girls," he said. "And being able to bring the best out of a kid, while coaching them, is a reward in itself."

That said, Choate still acknowledges that coaching does have its challenges - especially when combining the tenacity it takes to succeed, all while staying positive - to help grow a student-athlete both on and off the mat.

"The hardest part of coaching is convincing the kids how much time and effort they have to put in a sport to start reaping there rewards," Choate said. "One of the biggest rewards is when they stay in touch after they have graduated. My coaching goal is to be a mentor like I was mentored. I was fortunate to have some great coaches throughout my career and I want to give back by hopefully being the same."

Despite all the accolades and successes, quite possibly the most important thing Choate takes from coaching is explaining to the kids that they are capable of accomplishing anything if they put in the work.

"Because of the extensive workouts to get in shape they learn that they can do anything they set their mind to," said Choate. "When they are able to perform wrestling moves in concession they learn that hard work pays off... that, by putting in the time, they can get better at whatever they are trying."

"Some of my greatest joys have been from wrestling. Besides my personal success, to see a person set their goal, put in the work and accomplish that just makes it more enjoyable to coach," added Choate. "Alyssa Hess, Thuy Tran, Katie Burdick, my daughter Laura and many more of the girls make me proud to have been their coach."

Regardless of his undeniable efforts, Choate continues to remain humble saying, "The input and dedication of the assistants, co-coaches and mainly the participation of the athletes all are part of what makes a winning team and season."

Perhaps one of the reasons they've been so successful is that the girls are expected to do every drill, every exercise, every lap and lift every weight that the boys are. There is a ton of promise in the program and it is poised to develop in the coming years.

"Girls wrestling has come a long way...There have been many pioneers in the sport to help it get this far."

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