Steve Martin named new head wrestling coach at Old Dominion University

By Jason Bryant
Mat Talk On-Line

Great Bridge High School wrestling coach Steve Martin has accomplished nearly everything as a high school coach, and when long-time Old Dominion University wrestling coach Gray Simons announced his retirement in March, it seemed fitting to some that Martin would be a natural fit to take over the program.

It had been rumored in the wrestling community for over five years.

Steve Martin speaks at a press conference at ODU on Friday.
Photo by Paul Swisher/

Martin officially beat out a field of nearly 40 other candidates and was named the new head wrestling coach for the Monarchs’ program on Friday afternoon.

Martin won 12 state titles in 13 seasons as the head coach at Great Bridge and was a successful high school wrestler, winning three state championships at Kempsville High School and was an 1990-91 NCAA All-American at the University of Iowa. 

 “We had a tremendous applicant pool and we went as far as Great Bridge to select our coach,” Old Dominion University Athletic Director Dr. Jim Jarrett said Friday.

 “There were people from great wrestling programs around the country (that applied),” he added.

 “He has the focus and energy that will lead to great recruiting,” Jarrett said.

 As a high school coach, Martin compiled a 306-15-1 record in 13 seasons and had the Wildcats ranked as high as No. 2 in nationally. He’s led 11 wrestlers to high school all-American status and two high school national champions. Great Bridge alumni Carl Perry won the 2000 NCAA championship at Illinois.

 Martin was also named a regional coach of the year but Wrestling USA Magazine.

 “It’s been a goal of mine for many years to be a Division I coach. The right opportunity had to come along,” Martin said.

 The Monarchs program has been in the middle of the pack in the Colonial Athletic Association the last few seasons, Martin thinks he can make the Monarchs a contender in a few years.

 “It’s more of a four to five year process realistically; depending on how many local kids we get off the bat,” Martin said of his goals with the team and recruiting.

 “(The goal) is to start out trying to win the conference and then producing all-Americans and national champions. We’re going to have a high standard right off the bat with academics and athletics.”

 One of Martin’s primary goals is to keep the state’s talent in the Commonwealth.

 “Virginia high school wrestling has come to the forefront. We’d like to be able to keep Virginia kids home. It’s the goal of the coaching staff to keep those kids here,” Martin said.

 “Once you sign a couple good guys, others will jump on the bandwagon,” Martin said.

Old Dominion signed four-time Group AA state champion B.J. Compton of Christiansburg and three-time Group AAA state champion Hunter Davenport of Great Bridge and two-time Delaware state runner-up Andrew Jordan of St. Mark’s, prior to Martin getting the position.

 “That’s who I wanted to get it. Right now, I’m excited to go down there and wrestle,” Compton said. “He’s a good coach and pushes you hard and that’s what you need to get better. He won’t let me do anything I want. He’s a coach that will tell me what to do and how to get better at it.”

 “When I went down there on a recruiting trip, they (wrestlers) were excited about getting a new coach and they wanted to work hard. We’ll all mesh pretty good,” Compton said. “I think he knows what’s going on. He wants ODU to get good at wrestling and I feel that’s what he can do. He knows what he’s talking about.”

Martin was one of three finalists after the initial 40 were trimmed to five and then two. He got the nod over current Edinboro (Pa.) assistant coach Lou Rosselli, a 1996 Olympian, and former University of Pennsylvania assistant Mike Duroe.

 Compton was also recruited to Edinboro by Rosselli.

 “He’s got such a tremendous record with working with teams and the community. It’s a little unique (to go with a high school coach), but it was very easy to make the decision,” Jarrett said. “We want to look at where we are as base and be top 25 and keep improving,” he said.

 Martin will soon let his team know how drastic some changes will be.

 “This can’t be a hobby, this (wrestling) is a lifestyle, that’s going to be the biggest adjustment,” Martin said.

 Martin thinks the school’s location is one of its biggest plusses for potential recruits.

 “The beach is the biggest draw and a lot of attention to teammates and camaraderie. They have to be a family and be doing everything together,” Martin said.

 Next season, Martin will inherit seven returning starters and will look for leadership immediately.

 “Obviously guys like (Adam) Wright, (John) Adams, (Hunter) Davenport and (B.J.) Compton will adjust and set the tone and they know,” Martin said.

 Davenport wrestled for Martin four years in high school and now will have him as a college coach. Martin looks for Davenport’s presence to help with the rest of the team.

 “One of the good things (he’ll do) is help implement the style I’m trying to bring. He’ll show three guys and those three will show the other 20,” Martin said.

 Martin is the youngest of four sons of legendary Granby H.S. coach Billy Martin Sr., the founder of the famous Granby Roll.

 When asked how much of an impact the Granby style of wrestling will transfer over to Division I coaching, Martin said: “You’ll see more of it on your feet. You’re not going to see a lot of five-point rolls, you need to win on your feet to be successful.”

 Will there be a Great Bridge flavor to Old Dominion in the coming years? Possibly, but Martin’s not going to rest on high school accomplishments.

 “There will be an obvious Great Bridge influence, but that’s not very intelligent to stick with one program. We’re going to recruit the best kids; Cox (H.S.) kids, kids from Hayfield. I’ve got a good relationship with the coach at Davison (Mich.) and were looking at some of his kids and the same with St. Edward (Ohio) and Blair Academy (N.J.),” Martin said.

 “They’ll open the door (to recruiting), and then we’ll close it.”