Cal Poly chooses Buckley as coach
Former All-American wrestler at Clemson and Fresno State
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- Brendan Buckley has been named Cal Poly’s head wrestling coach.
Don Oberhelman, the Mustangs' Athletic Director, picked Buckley to succeed John Azevedo, who retired this month after 10 seasons, the last eight years as head coach, and Mark Perry, who resigned in April to become associate head coach at the University of Illinois. Azevedo and Perry served as co-head coaches at Cal Poly for the 2010-11 season.
Buckley, who spent 11 seasons as head coach at Columbia University in New York, will assume his new role on July 5.
“Brendan has an excellent record in developing student-athletes,” said Oberhelman. “Brendan has demonstrated that he knows how to fulfill his first responsibility as a coach, which is to make sure we honor our commitment to our student-athletes’ academic achievement. We’ve hired the right coach to ensure we continue to honor those ideals.
“Brendan also believes, as I do, that all of our student-athletes should strive to leave Cal Poly with a diploma and a championship,” Oberhelman added. “I’m very excited about what he will accomplish at Cal Poly.”
Buckley, who earned a 14-3 win at 142 pounds in Fresno State’s 24-16 dual meet victory against Cal Poly in 1997, praised Cal Poly’s reputation for athletic and academic excellence.
“Cal Poly athletics has a rich tradition that I am well aware of. My goal is to add to those traditions,” Buckley said. “I am really excited to be here and I can’t wait to begin working with the team. We will strive for excellence on the mat and in the classroom.”
Buckley received the Division I Bob Bubb Coaching Excellence Award on May 31. The award, presented by the National Wrestling Coaches Association, recognizes an outstanding coach who epitomizes the qualities and characteristics of a role model and mentor for developing young student-athletes.
Last year, Buckley led the Lions to a 9-6 overall record and a third-place finish in the Ivy League. The team placed seventh overall at the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA) Championships in March and two wrestlers advanced to the Round of 16 at the NCAA Division I National Championship.
Off the mat, Columbia shined in the classroom as well, ranking third nationally with a 3.2917 team cumulative grade-point average. The Lions have been named to the National Wrestling Coaches Association Academic Team each year under Buckley's guidance and have ranked in the top-10 in five of those years.
Buckley’s accomplishments at Columbia include five years of nationally ranked recruiting classes, 20 NCAA qualifiers and a school-record eight EIWA placewinners in the 2006-07 season.
In the last six years, Columbia has earned 26 All-Ivy League selections, 16 NCAA qualifiers and the program's first All-American in 23 years. Matt Palmer finished eighth in the 2005 and 2007 NCAA Championships at 165 and 174 pounds, respectively. In 2008-09, Buckley coached heavyweight Ryan Flores to the program's first EIWA title since 1995.
Buckley was named EIWA Coach of the Year as he led the Lions to a fourth-place finish at the 2005 EIWA Championships, the team’s best finish at the meet since 1931. The Lions also won the EIWA Wrestling Officials Sportsmanship Award.
Columbia made further improvements in 2007, as the team earned its first top-25 ranking, eight wrestlers placed at the EIWA Championships, four team members qualified for nationals and Palmer earned his second All-America honor.
Buckley, 71-84-1 in 11 dual meet seasons with the Lions, came to Columbia from the University of Virginia, where he was the top assistant coach from 1998 to 2000. He helped lead the Cavaliers to two consecutive top-25 finishes in the NCAA Championships, while helping develop three All-Americans and seven NCAA qualifiers, including national finalist Steve Garland at 125 pounds.
Prior to Virginia, Buckley was the chief assistant coach at UC Davis and Sacramento City College. During his tenure at Sacramento CC, five wrestlers were named All-Americans.
Buckley was a high school All-American and Florida state champion at 135 pounds for Lake Howell High and then starred at Clemson where he made the freshman All-American team his first year and reached the NCAA Round of 16 as a 142-pound sophomore.
When Clemson dropped wrestling after the 1994-95 season, Buckley transferred to Fresno State, where he wrestled under Dennis DeLiddo. Buckley was a Western Athletic Conference champion for the Bulldogs and earned All-America status with a seventh-place finish at the NCAA Championship at 142 pounds in 1997.