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Where are they now? – Richard Deschatelets

June 12, 2023

Excelling where he least expected

Growing up in Northern Ontario, Richard Deschatelets always dreamed of becoming a professional hockey player, yet with a family of 11, including five boys, wrestling was a natural pastime. Even though Deschatelets had humble beginnings with the sport, wrestling in the kitchen and backyard, it would become a life-long passion that saw him involved as an athlete, coach, and administrator.

“I come from a big family and the boys, we always wrestled. I wasn’t the best at it, I used to get my butt kicked most of the time. My brothers would say ‘you’re the hockey player’ because that was what I was good at and wanted to do,” remembers Deschatelets.

Yet Deschatelets would pivot from hockey to wrestling because of his obligations on the family farm. “Chores were at seven, which was also the time of hockey practices and games. But wrestling, that was right after school. I could go to practice, jog home and be available for chores.”

While wrestling may have fit his schedule better than hockey, Deschatelets also had something to prove to his brothers. Showing them that he could be a good wrestler fuelled him and helped launch his career in the sport.

That is exactly what Deschatelets would do as he went on to have a hall of fame career in wrestling. He is a six-time national champion, two-time Commonwealth Games champion, Canada Cup champion, Pan-American Games silver medalist (twice) and bronze medalist, Junior World bronze medalist and three-time World Cup bronze medalist. While he looks back fondly on those accomplishments, it was a simpler feeling of accomplishment that he felt after each tournament that stands out the most. “There are many fond memories. When I entered a tournament and won, I’d feel a high from the adrenaline. When you lose, you feel bad, but want to come back and improve. Being French in Northern Ontario, my family had a bit of an inferiority complex, so every tournament I won I would tell my dad, ‘See it is not that tough to compete with the English kids’.”

A turning point in Deschatelets’ career came in 1980. He was at the top of his game, but the boycott of the Olympics took away his chance to add to his impressive resume. Deschatelets found himself in Sudbury, he had been recruited to become a teacher, something he never saw himself doing. “While I was at university peopled asked me what I was going to do? I always said ‘Two things I know I won’t do are teach or coach! In my family, many of my siblings were teachers and my mother was a teacher. She would come home and I’d hear the negative stories. As for coaching, I know how frustrated my coach would get with us, so I knew I didn’t want any part of that either.”

Yet after working as a teacher, Deschatelets quickly changed his stance. What started as a contract turned into him repeatedly asking the principal if he could be hired full time.  That June, he got a call from Brock University offering him a job and an opportunity to start a wrestling program. Deschatelets still had goals for his own wrestling career and would go on to place fourth at the World Championships, but after he returned to Brock and began coaching. “I started coaching and realized as much as I liked teaching, this was better! I became a coach, then I applied to be the assistant director and was for 28 years. I coached until 2007, then I retired from assistant director in 2010.”

Deschatelets took the Brock program to new heights. When he was hired to start the program, he had two athletes with wrestling experience, so he had to recruit heavily and pulled in all kinds of athletes.  Soon he recruited wrestlers who would help shape the program and sport. He recruited Dave Collie (current Brock Assistant Coach) and Kimin Kim, former WCL NextGen coach. Every year the program got bigger and bigger and won its first national championship in 1992. From there, Brock won 14 national titles, nine under Deschatelets.

Outside of Brock, Deschatelets also coached on the international stage for Canada. He was the coach of the 2000 Olympic team that featured Canada’s only men’s gold medalist, Daniel Igali. “Coaching that Olympic team was a coaches dream,” he said. “The athletes we had were some of the best, especially Daniel Igali and Guivi (Gia) Sissaouri. Of course, Daniel won gold, but Gia wrestled an Iranian and we knew if he won that match, he probably wins the Olympics. He lost in overtime, but it would have been something to say I coached two Olympic champions.”

After he retired from coaching, Deschatelets focused on a side real estate business he had started years earlier. He found success in real estate which has helped give him the opportunities he has today. Yet he would not be fully done with coaching. When his son Richard Jr. decided to pursue the sport, he wanted his dad to help. “When he started to take wrestling seriously, he said, ‘ok pops you have to coach me’ and that was great, what parent wouldn’t want to do that? I am fortunate that he likes me to be around.  I wish I was 15 years younger; I’d be able to help him more. I am 69 years old, so I’m not really made to be on the mat scrimmaging anymore,” he said with a smile.

Richard Jr. is also working with his father in the real estate business, which works out well because he is still able to concentrate on his training. The family aspect is what Deschatelets prioritizes most now, he is thrilled he can help his son with his wrestling career, but he also enjoys spending time with his daughter, and three-year-old grand daughter, who by Deschatelets’ account, has him wrapped around her finger.

While his time as a coach may be over for the most part, Deschatelets still finds himself involved in wrestling and taking in local events. It is at these events that he truly sees the impact he has had on the sport. “I have been invited to go to OFSAA a few times and people always point out that three quarters of the coaches there were athletes I coached. A lot of people who came from my program went into teaching and then coaching, which is great for me to see.”

Not a bad legacy for someone who never thought they would be involved in wrestling, teaching or coaching.