Joe Sullivan - Skeena’s Coach of Olympians
Coaching an Olympic Gold Medalist
~By Joe Sullivan
Canada has sent 6 women to Olympics. one third of them from Hazelton. Canada has won three medals in Olympic wrestling one third of them from Hazelton and the only gold. One quarter of every Olympic women’s wrestling team has been Hazelton women. For several years the national women’s team has been from one third to one half Hazelton women.
I recall when I first was able to get Carol to come out for the wrestling team. I had coached her older sister, Ngoc, and she had been a natural at it and had a great work ethic. I reasoned that it should run in the family and was not disappointed when Carol and several of her friends came to a wrestling practice. We had almost 20 girls during Carol’s first year, many who went on to win lots of matches and medals for our club. In her very first tournament, along with Kate Eckfeldt, she came away with a bronze medal. Kate was our women’s team captain and a wonderful leader and Carol, her good friend, was a good teammate who took instruction well and participated fully in the practices and matches. We were running a team with 10% of the students in the school or, approximately 55 kids. Carol and, in fact, the entire team of which she was part, were happy and eager and presented real challenges to me and Chuck Hayden, my assistant coach. The were eager to learn everything they could and they worked hard at becoming very physically fit and at perfecting the great many maneuvers that we were trying to teach. When we traveled to tournaments the entire team worked together like a well oiled machine. Whenever any one was on the mats the rest of the team was there to give support and, win lose, or draw, they were cheered on. Kate Eckfeldt and Carol Huynh were great friends and sparing partners. They encouraged and pushed each other to do their very best. Hazelton had it’s highest place finish in Provincial championships with a number 2 placement. One should note that that was against every school in the province, not just those in our class. Those kids made a real name for themselves and the school. Katie and Carol each started their career with a third place finish at our local tournament and finished with a bronze medal at the national championships. Katie went off to Calgary to continue with her wrestling while Carol chose to go to Simon Fraser on a scholarship. They were National Champs the
following year and went on to represent their country in the Junior World Championships in France. Coaching such talented athletes is both a pleasure and a real challenge.
Carol is not our first Olympian and not the first from the area to represent Canada at international competition. The club has produced consistent, high level wrestlers and many went on to win medals in both national and international competition.
Carol was guided and mentored by another of her team mates and our first Olympian, Lindsay Belisle. When Lindsay retired from competition after her silver medal win at the women’s world championships Carol moved into her spot and quickly took charge. She had set her sights on representing Canada at the Olympics and, further, to come home with the Gold. It is all part of history now. Carol lived her dream. It took hard work and dedication but Carol let nothing get in her way, including the 3 time world champion whom she handily beat in the finals in Beijing. A special thanks is due to the community for the effort that many people put in to keeping our wrestling program alive and strong. It is no small matter that many in our community believed in Carol’s dream and walked a portion of the journey along with her. We hope to have Carol back in the community sometime before Christmas to let us get a close look at that gold medal and at the best 48 kg women’s wrestler on the planet, Carol Huynh!
Becoming a Coach of Future Olympians
~By Shannon McPhail
Just what exactly DID Joe Sullivan do to become such a successful coach? He never actually joined the Charles Page High School team in Sand Springs, Oklahoma until Grade 10. His motivation to join was self defense as his older brother had joined the team and would come home to kick his butt. To his brother’s dimay, Joe went undefeated and set a state record for the most consecutive pins. Got his first coaching gig with the American military while in the middle east and with the Turkish National team. He returned to the US and taught a few wrestling classes at Iowa State earning a full ride to the University of Montana to develop and coach their team. He completed is Masters of Science degree and was offered a job to develop an environmental science program and coach the football team for Lakeland College (Vermillion). He accepted on the condition that he could start a wrestling program. In Vermillion, his team went undefeated in Canadian competition and he was chosen to represent Canada at the world Coaching Conference in Yugoslavia where he earned his international coach rating from FILA.