Watch above: long-time Crusaders wrestling coach Dave Elder is set to retire
SASKATOON – Saskatoon’s Holy Cross High School will be losing its head wrestling coach, Dave Elder, after over thirty years as head of the program.
Elder has been coaching the Crusaders wrestling team since the 1980’s and has seen the program rise in talent over the years.
“We’ve come a long ways, from getting out butt kicked,” said Elder, who recounted that his squad lost every match in the first dual meet he ever coached.
“A program doesn’t just happen overnight, it takes time to develop it,” he added.
Elder’s retirement coincides with the graduation of Josh Bodnarchuk, who has won four straight city and provincial wrestling championships. He made a promise to Bodnarchuk when he was in grade eight: if he came to Holy Cross, Elder would stay on as coach until he graduated high school.
“When my parents told me that he was coaching high school at Holy Cross, that’s when I started to get more motivated,” said Bodnarchuk, who won two national titles this year at the Canadian juvenile wrestling nationals in Guelph, Ont.
Former and current athletes of Elder say his positivity goes a long way in recruiting and retaining prospective athletes for Cross’ program, even if they’re not wrestlers by trade.
“The great thing about his practices is they’re very beneficial to any level of wrestler,” said Bodnarchuk. “He’s very encouraging and everyone trusts him.”
“He would explain in ways that other coaches wouldn’t and it was usually through stories,” said Dan Olver, interim head coach of the University of Saskatchewan wrestling team. Olver graduated from Holy Cross in 2006 and spent five years wrestling for the Huskies.
“Each one of us would take something different away from [the stories],” added Olver, who said that he tries to emulate Elder’s coaching style when he deals with his university athletes.
Bodnarchuk will join Olver’s U of S squad next year, joining a handful of other alumni from Holy Cross, including Canada West medalists Silke Svenkeson and Andrew Johnson.
“I know the kind of athlete that comes out of [Holy Cross]; the kind of athlete that is able to be successful in that room is going to be the kind of person that you want to coach,” said Olver.
“The kids that come out of Mr. Elder’s rooms are kids that you want.”
Elder has led the Crusaders to 11 provincial championships in wrestling over the years, but says he’s stayed grounded by the constant presence of his son Jonathan, who has been in a wheelchair his entire life due to a Spina bifida diagnosis.
“When you get your head too swelled up, I just look over at Jon and he kind of brings me back to reality,” said Elder of his son, who attends all of Holy Cross’ wrestling matches.
“I’d like to think he does that not only for me, but for all the athletes that surround him.”
Elder hopes that the program he’s built can sustain its success; while he is stepping down from the head coaching position, he plans to teach at Holy Cross next year and help transition the new head coach into the role.
“I’ve been very lucky,” said Elder, looking back at his career.
“It’s life, it’s a natural progression, I am getting too dad-gum old to be doing this kind of stuff, it’s time to move on I think.”