For St. Edward High head wrestling coach Greg Urbas, priorities are important.
“We want to teach God first, family second, academics third, and then your athletics or your extracurriculars,” says the Ohio Hall of Fame Coach. “We think that it is real important to put things in proper perspective.”
Coach Urbas is featured on a Cliff Keen Coaches Classic interview hosted by GOHIOCASTS.com and Flowrestling.com this month.
Urbas offers an overview of how wrestling translates to success in life.
“It starts with the comaradarie the kids have – they have a blast together,” says Urbas. “The sport can bring the best out of you. Just take a look at the CEOs of the big time companies or Fortune 500 companies . It is amazing how many people that are successful in life that were wrestlers.
“Maybe it is because there’s no excuses out there.”
The interview was conducted by GOHIOCASTS.com’s Zebulin Miller. He asks the Ohio Fall of Fame coach to explain how wrestlers learn to handle both success and failure as life lessons.
“No excuses. They put their foot on the line and let it rip. If they do well, then OK. If they don’t, they go back and figure out why and work on their own weaknesses. The sport is amazing,” says Urbas.
“Wrestling makes young people be responsible for their perfomances. It makes them responsible for putting their life in order, taking care of their academics, taking care of their wrestling, and working on their weaknesses. You can’t pass the blame on to anybody.”
Greg Urbas started coaching at St. Edward in 1978 under legendary coach Howard Ferguson, who died unexpectedly in 1989 at age 51 after rattling off a string of 10 straight state championships with the Eagles.
“Coach Ferguson used to say that the problem with society is there aren’t enough people who want to dare to be great,” says Urbas. “They don’t want to accept challenges.
“Well, wrestlers do. From east coast to west coast, from north to south, wrestlers – when they step on the line -they take responsibility for their actions.”
Urbas is also the first to say that wrestling is a metaphor for life – that sports don’t last forever.
“We’ve told all our kids that athletics end,” says Urbas. “How would it be if you put sports first? What would a kid have when the sport is over for him? We have to be able to look them in the eye and get them ready for life.”
“Coach Ferguson had a great phrase,” says Urbas. “He always said to the kids, ‘Use the sport. Don’t let the sport use you.’ It will open up doors for you. It will teach you how to prepare for challenges. Use the sport.”
It is a philosophy that has created a great tradition at St. Edward High School. ,
“We had 15 of our alumni come back the day after Thanksgiving to practice. It was a Who’s Who. It was incredible,” said Urbas. “And they are all humble. Our freshmen don’t even know these guys. Ryan Bertin walks in and nobody knows him – he’s a two-time national champ (University of Michigan). We had to introduce him!
“Every single kid that graduates from Ed’s is welcome back. It is their school. It is their family. It is a philosophy that St. Ed has. You are always welcomed back. This is your home.”
The most important thing, concludes Coach Urbas, is a healthy attitude, an approach to life personified by Assistant Coach John Heffernan (a two-time all-American at Iowa and state champ at St. Ed).
“He is the heart and soul of St. Ed wrestling, Coach Heff,” says Urbas. “He speaks to to the kids – don’t get too high with a victory, don’t get too down with a loss.”
In accepting the great challenges of life, a man finds his better self. For Ed’s wrestlers, it means preparing for a national-caliber schedule that includes the best in the nation each year.
“Ferg told us years and years ago that if you challenge the kids, it is easier at practice. They won’t need much motivation because they see what’s coming up on Friday or Saturday night. The challenge is there,” said Urbas.
“He did it for two reasons: 1 – To set goals super high to achieve more. 2 – It is very easy to motivate kids when you have a tremendous schedule like that.”
“The kids know it’s a challenge and they go after challenges. I’ve got a junior who never wrestled before and he came out. He’s doing decent – he competes!
“I asked coach Heff, ‘Would there ever have been anybody at Iowa in the room who had never wrestled before?’ I’m thinking there’s no way. He looks at me and says his best friend in college had never wrestled before and lasted four years!He was their number one med student! He’s doctor now.”
It all boils down to maintaining the right attitude.
“How do you survive? Attitude!” exclaims Coach Urbas.
“Attitude, attitude, attitude! Whatever you’ve been blessed with – great! But you better have an attitude. Bring your attitude to the room. Bring a great effort – whatever you’re blessed with….And use what you are blessed with!”