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Being the son of a coach can be tough. It can have its perks, but everything isn’t always peachy keen between father and son.
Just ask LaRue County senior 170-pounder Caleb Canter (45-0), the son of Hall of Fame wrestling coach Gary Canter.
If the Hawks don’t do something correctly in practice, Caleb is the one who typically feels the brunt of his dad’s frustration. Even if it’s not him who’s messing up, Caleb is usually the one getting chastised.
But Caleb, who’s ranked No. 1 in the state in his weight class entering this weekend’s 2nd Region Tournament at John Hardin, has learned to go with it.
“I’m starting to get used to it,” Caleb said. “My freshman year I would get mad every day and I would throw a fit every time he yelled at me. But then I realized that I’m going to get yelled at more because he’s my dad and he can yell at me more than he can everyone else and he expects more of me.
“Through my entire career, people have expected me to be good and expected me to compete at State just because I am Coach Canter’s son,” he added. “Everyone thinks if you’re a coach’s son that you should know what you’re doing and should be doing it better than everybody else.”
Gary doesn’t yell at Caleb just because he can. He does it because he knows it’ll motivate his son to come back and do better the next day.
“I take out my frustration a lot of times on him, and he gets angry sometimes,” Gary said. “I yell at him and he thinks I’m picking on him, but it’s just one of those father-son things. You’re not going to meet eye-to-eye on everything. It’s a whole lot easier to hear criticism from someone other than your father, so I have to step back sometimes and bite my tongue and turn a blind eye to it because he has heard it a lot more than the others.”
They may not agree on everything, just like any father and son throughout history, but they wouldn’t have it any other way.
Caleb wouldn’t want anyone other than his dad coaching him, and Gary wouldn’t know what to do if he wasn’t coaching his son.
“I think people expect me to be good just because of who he is,” Caleb said. “I think I’ve started to make a name for myself through my actions, on and off the mat. I wouldn’t be where I am without him. I can’t imagine not having him coach me or being with me everyday. I don’t know if I’d be wrestling if it wasn’t for him.
“It’s definitely been a blessing,” he added. “A lot of kids’ dads don’t get to get to see what their kids do. My dad has been able to coach me all through my life, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.”
Gary has had the perspective a lot of fathers don’t get to experience.
He’s seen his son win big matches and he’s watched Caleb lose some over the years – like last year at the state tournament when Caleb lost to Johnson Central senior J.J. Jude, the eventual 170-pound champion, in the semifinals.
Gary remembers the agony when Jude scored a reversal to regain the lead and the feeling in the pit of his stomach when time ran out as Caleb was shooting in for a match-winning takedown in the closing seconds. Caleb wound up placing fifth.
“He went in against Jude and was vastly undersized,” Gary recalled. “Caleb weighed in at 158 (pounds) on the first day of the tournament, and he was giving up a tremendous amount of strength. But if you ask anyone who was there for that match, they’ll probably say that was the most intense matchup of the tournament.”
Caleb has used that match as motivation for this season. Looking to get stronger and put on a little more weight, Caleb turned to Adam Lindsey – a former John Hardin wrestling coach who now has a strength and conditioning class at LaRue County – to help him.
With Lindsey’s guidance, Caleb has transformed himself into a legit 170-pounder.
“Coach Lindsey has been a huge blessing in my life,” Caleb said. “The gains I’ve made in the weight room are just ridiculous. I’ve gone from being a good-sized 135 to a full-sized 170 in the last two years.”
He entered the season dreaming of winning State, but a partially torn lateral collateral ligament in one of his knees cost him three weeks at the start of the year.
“Not being able to wrestle was killing me, but I worked through it and to get back out there,” Caleb said. “I was kind of worried that I would be more hesitant and not as good after that, but I came out strong and I’ve kept going. I’ve wrestled well in every tournament since and I hope I can keep that up the next two weeks.”
If he does, father and son are confident he’ll be standing at the top of the medal podium as a state champion next week in Lexington.
All Caleb has to do, Gary said, is stay focused.
“I feel more pressure as a dad than as a coach because I’ve been in this position many times as a coach,” Gary said. “You know the pain and the agony they go through when they don’t make a goal, and it’s that much deeper when you’ve got dual roles.
“I think Caleb deserves to be on the top. And barring any bad luck, we’ll be there. We just have to stay focused,” he added. “Watching the Super Bowl, I’m thinking it’d be nice to cap Caleb’s career off with a title just like Ray Lewis did.”
Title or no title, one thing’s for certain: Gary will always look back and think of all the good times he had while coaching his son.
“I think every father wishes they had the opportunity to be where I am,” he said. “To have that opportunity, to watch him grow up, is priceless. Everybody would want to be in that position. It’s an opportunity I’ve been blessed with and I feel blessed to have had that chance.”
Josh Claywell can be reached at (270) 505-1752 or firstname.lastname@example.org.