Steve Garland (Col ’00) is a born salesman—that rare kind of coach who, through sheer force of personality, can persuade you to buy his pitch.
UVA’s wrestling program went 8-10 last year, but to listen to Garland, there’s no reason the Cavaliers can’t rise up and challenge the Iowas, Minnesotas and Missouris of the world.
Based on Garland’s most recent recruiting class, the wrestling community is listening with rapt attention to what he has to say. A former All-American at UVA, Garland, 30, brought in one of the most highly ranked classes in the program’s history. One wrestling magazine ranked it No. 3 nationally.
“We jump on the road [to recruit] and, much to our wives’ dismay, we don’t stop,” Garland says. “We just go after all the best kids. We get in their homes, and we develop a relationship with them.”
Garland’s pitch has two parts. First, he gets the wrestler to like him, trust him and want to wrestle for him. Then he gets him to consider attending UVA rather than Penn State or Iowa State.
“Virginia is a pretty easy school to sell once you get them here,” Garland says.
Mike Chaires might be the most celebrated of Garland’s incoming class. He was ranked No. 3 in the nation at 160 pounds last year by Amateur Wrestling News and had his pick of schools. “I had a bunch of visits set up, but I wound up coming here on a visit to UVA and I committed that weekend,” Chaires recalls.
First-year Scott O’Donnell had a similar experience. The three-time Missouri state champion was leaning heavily toward Harvard, but one visit to UVA changed his mind.
“The kid turned down Harvard to come here,” Garland says. “That’s how much he believed in UVA wrestling and our vision for the program.”