KINGSBURG — Bryce Hammond’s vision of building a successful wrestling program at Kingsburg High School isn’t going to happen overnight, but bringing someone with NCAA Division I wrestling experience to the coaching staff could move the process along.
That someone turns out to be his younger brother, Coleman Hammond, who recently graduated and finished a successful collegiate career at California State University, Bakersfield. He graduated in May.
Bryce asked his brother various times to join the coaching staff, but it wasn’t until after Coleman’s senior season concluded that he decided to coach with his brother. After taking a break from the sport for a few months, Coleman made the move to Kingsburg.
“I was in the middle of my wrestling career and when you’re in the middle of your wrestling career, sometimes it’s hard to see an end in sight,” Coleman said. “After being done with the season for about two months now, I’m just like ‘OK, yeah, let’s start doing something new now.’”
Originally, Bryce was supposed have another person join the staff — Matt Williams, also a CSU Bakersfield wrestling alum. Williams opted to go train at the Olympic training center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
“It’s a tough loss, but it happens,” Bryce said of Williams. “At least we got one.”
When both Hammond brothers were wrestling at Bakersfield High School, Bryce said the majority of the coaching staff competed in the NCAA Division I level. He wants to bring that same type of atmosphere to Kingsburg.
“If you look at most successful high school programs, they’re run like a division I college program. That’s true, I would assume, with most sports” Bryce said. “Running a program like a division I program requires having guys that have wrestled in a division I program.”
The brothers have hardly been separated throughout their entire lives, so it’s no surprise to them that they’re coaching the same team.
“It’s only fitting that we go to Kingsburg and coach together,” Coleman said. “I think it’s worked out well too because we have the same philosophy on things. We’re products of the same team and same coaches.”
Both Hammonds share a philosophy and vision for turning around a program that could potentially compete with teams such as Buchanan and rival Selma. This past season, both Buchanan and Selma high schools were ranked among the top five in the state and earned national rankings as well.
“Wrestling is not of those programs where you need to be at a big school to be successful,” Bryce said. “You don’t have to have 6-foot-6-inch athletes that weigh 300 pounds. You have weight classes. If you work hard, you could be successful regardless of athletic ability.”
The younger Hammond said building a program to an elite level is going to take time.
“A lot of these guys maybe have wrestled their whole lives or haven’t,” Coleman said. “This is small program right now and there’s going to be a lot of work that needs to happen to make sure they can compete with the Buchanan and Bakersfield [teams].”
Both of the Hammond brothers were successful at CSU Bakersfield, including becoming three-time NCAA tournament qualifiers. Coleman was the first Roadrunner to qualify for the NCAA Championships since Bryce, who is one of three wrestlers in the program to win a Pac-12 Conference title. Their father, Ray Hammond, also was a wrestler at CSU Bakersfield.
“They’re both outstanding individuals, I think they’re going to do a great job up there,” Roadrunners coach Manny Rivera said. “I’m not even talking about wrestling, they’re just going to be very good men of character to lead young kids.”
Rivera didn’t coach Bryce Hammond in college but coached Coleman in his final two seasons.
“The focus is never on the coaching staff, it’s the kids,” Bryce said. “They have to perform and put the work in.”