Mike Bundy has big dreams and a plan on how to achieve them.
Bundy, 30, is the first-year West Valley High School wrestling coach. He was on the job exactly two weeks when the Eagles held their first practice session of the 2011-’12 season.
“I am very thankful to have this opportunity,” Bundy said. “The support I’ve gotten here has been incredible, from the superintendent on down. But yeah, everything has happened pretty fast.”
The head coaching job at West Valley came open in late September when John Owen resigned after three seasons. Owen, who built a dynasty at North Idaho College, has long said that, to be truly effective, a coach has to teach and coach at the same school and cited the unlikelihood of a position opening up.
Not long after Owen resigned at WV, his son, Tommy, resigned after one season at Central Valley to accept an assistant coaching position at George Mason University. Early last month, the father was hired to replace the son at CV.
“I applied for the job at CV,” Bundy said. “I was an assistant coach at CV with Tommy Owen last year, and I would have liked to have been able to continue with the kids I had built a relationship with. But I am happy to be here and I want to build a program here.”
That’s important to Bundy. Building a program rather than building a reputation.
He built a solid reputation as a wrestler, winning a state championship at 158 pounds as a Lake Stevens (Wash.) junior and at 168 as a senior. He closed out his high school wrestling career with 54 consecutive victories and was undefeated (41-0) his senior season. He understands first-hand both what it takes to be successful in the sport and what it takes to be a champion.
His vision for the program is long-term – and to help accomplish it, he’s already thinking about going back to school.
“I want to go back and finish my teaching degree,” he said. “At first, I thought I wanted just a general teaching degree. But I have a son with autism and that has made me intensely interested in working with students who have special needs. He inspires me.”
Bundy’s wrestling mentor is Brent Barnes, who in more than two decades at Lake Stevens has built the Vikings into one of the top wrestling programs in the country, winning state championships in 1990, 2000, 2001, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011. Along the way, his teams went 18 seasons without losing a Western Conference match – a streak that was snapped in 2007-’08 – and his program was the subject of an MTV series.
“I wrestled for Brent and he’s been a big supporter and a mentor to me,” Bundy said. “He’s my role model and I want to create the kind of coaching career he has. I want to build the kind of program that competes for state titles year after year. I don’t have any interest in moving from school to school. I want to settle at one school and build.
“My wife and I had a long talk about this before I accepted the job because I consider this a long-term commitment.”
In just a month on the job, Bundy already has taken steps to establish the kind of foundation that can and will support such a long-term commitment. Already he’s started a program for youngsters to expose them to the sport.
“We had 16 kids turn out for our first practice,” he said. “I think that’s a great start. And to give you an idea about the kind of commitment the people here have to the program, Stacy Delcour, the dean of students here, had her two little kids there.”
And, Bundy insists, he has a plan to bridge from the program for the little grapplers to his varsity.
“I really want to reach out to the middle school program and bring them into what we’re doing,” he said. “I look at what Brent did at Lake Stevens, where his two varsity assistant coaches are also the head coaches of the two middle school programs in that district.”
The plans also call for West Valley parents to be involved in the program.
“I haven’t met too many parents yet, but the ones I have met have been great,” he said. “If a youngster is going to be successful, it has to be a team effort. The coaching staff has to support him, his parents have to support him, the school has to support him.”
On the mat, Bundy already is investing with sweat equity.
“I like that I’m still in good shape and can get out on the mat and work with the kids,” he explained. “I think that’s a part of what worked so well last year at Central Valley. I could work one-on-one with the kids from 152 pounds and up and Tommy took the kids from 145 on down.
“I think wrestling is the kind of sport where you have to have passion for what you’re doing and I think the kids have to see that passion up close. I’m not the kind of coach who can sit still during a match – I’m always jumping up and down and anticipating moves my wrestlers are making. I guess I’m still more comfortable being on the mat than I am being on the sidelines.”
This year’s Eagles are a small group, but he plans to see it get bigger. Returnees from a year ago were fewer than expected.
“I would rather have a smaller group that is really dedicated to getting better than a bigger group that isn’t,” he said.
This year’s wrestlers will wrestle in new weight classifications: 106 pounds, 113, 120, 126, 132, 138, 145, 152, 160, 170, 182, 195, 220 and 285.
“We may not have someone at every weight, but it’s more important to have everyone at the right weight,” Bundy said. “I think we’re going to be OK once we get everything sorted out.
“One of the first things I did when I accepted the job was to add some tournaments to the schedule – there weren’t many tournaments there for our kids to wrestle in. I think that’s important. You need to learn how to wrestle at tournaments to be successful at state and that is going to be our goal: to get kids ready and qualify them for the state tournament.”
To that end, he’s begun something that he plans to make a tradition at West Valley: early practices.
“We practice first thing in the morning on Saturdays and I have them come in and we practice before school on Mondays,” he explained. “When you wrestle in tournaments your first match is usually right at 8 a.m. and it’s one of the most important matches you wrestle all day. I want my kids to know what it’s like to wake up and wrestle.”