FAIRFIELD — At the tender age of 26, Marques Gales has reached the top of a ladder.
Gales, a 2005 graduate of Armijo High, was recently hired as the new head wrestling coach at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn. He comes off a stint as a graduate assistant at Springfield College in Springfield, Mass.
“When I heard the news (of getting the job), I was actually really excited,” Gales said in a phone interview from Connecticut. “It took me back to the early days in the Armijo wrestling room. I learned life lessons there.
“I sat in my office at Springfield and reflected for a while, and called home – told the news to my mom. My family is a huge part of my success. They have been very supportive of me being so far away but continuing with something I’m passionate about – coaching.”
There is also another reason for Gales’ passion.
“My mom was undergoing treatment for breast cancer during the heart of the 2011-12 season, which was a huge inspiration for me,” Gales said. “She has been cancer free for more than a year now.”
Gales drew from that inspiration and said the interview for the job couldn’t have gone much better.
“I interviewed with the athletic director (Michael Renwick),” Gales said. “He told me I had a great vision of how wrestling should be. I heard about the Olympics (not including wrestling anymore) in February. I helped start social media (to promote wrestling) at Springfield. He said, ‘You can actually help us with that.’ He saw that I had great vision for the sport.
“We had a great conversation. I felt great when I left (the interview). Everything I’ve done in life has added up to this.”
The climb up Gales’ wrestling ladder started back at Armijo, which culminated with a Monticello Empire League championship at 152 pounds in 2005.
Gales couldn’t help but reflect on what helped his rise in the wrestling ranks.
“I learned a lot (at Armijo),” the new coach said. “The main things I learned from (Indians coach) Mark (Williams). He said a lot of things that go on (while learning to wrestle) will happen in life. I made that connection that life won’t be easy. You have to fight for what you want. You always have to have a backup plan. I was able to apply that to life, work, school.”
Williams said he could tell that Gales wasn’t going to be satisfied with just wrestling, that he had the ability to do more in the sport.
“He was a good kid, a real hard worker, very focused,” Williams said. “Whenever we practiced, other kids would be goofing off and he was working hard. He always enjoyed the sport and it was something that he was good at.
“Even when he graduated, he was always talking about getting into education and teaching. He could be a natural head coach. You could tell he wouldn’t stop after high school. He would come back and work out with us. He was constantly expanding his knowledge of the sport.”
After Armijo, Gales attended Santa Rosa Junior College and then transferred to San Francisco State University, where he wrestled for Lars Jensen, twin brother of Will C. Wood coach Thor Jensen.
“I was a two-time super regional placer (at SFSU),” Gales said. “I was sixth in 174 (pounds) in 2008 and third in 184s in 2009. I qualified for Nationals in 2009. We had five qualifiers that year and I was the only one not named All-American. After my last match, coach (Jensen) said I was an academic all-American. When I didn’t place, that lit a fire under me. I wanted to help people out.”
After graduating from SFSU in 2010, Gales became a graduate assistant Springfield College after some encouragement from a couple of coaches.
“During my time at SFSU, I got to know head coach Lars Jensen pretty well,” Gale said. “He became a great mentor for me, just like Jake Fitzpatrick at SRJC, and I once again was reassured that coaching was the right path for me.
“When I told him I was interested in Springfield for grad school, he told me great things about the place and even wrote me a great letter of recommendation. There’s a strange twist – the Springfield head coach at the time, Daryl Arroyo, was a grad assistant at Cal State Fullerton in the ’80s and knew of Coach Jensen, so there was a small connection.”
Even though he’s still young, Gales thinks he’s prepared to take on the leadership of a program.
“My experience at Springfield prepared me well for the head coaching position, so regardless of age, I have a tremendous amount and quality of experience that I feel can translate into success as a head coach,” Gales said.
He also noted he already has a plan in place to bring success to Trinity’s wrestling program.
“My vision is to bring the team to national prominence,” Gales said confidently. “They have been at the bottom of conference the last couple of years. (The initial goal is) to have a regional champ this year and qualify wrestlers to nationals year in and year out, and also apply lessons from the mat to actual life, to have success in life through wrestling.”
Spoken like a man with a serious plan.
Reach Brian Arnold at 427-6969 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/barnolddr.