Back in 1991, a group of young men found Professor Robert Quade in the Seay lunch room. Professor Quade was the Chair of the Business Department, and had mentioned in one of his lectures that he had wrestled. Bob would joke, “they never asked how good I was, just if I had wrestled.” The team practiced on wall mats in the gymnasium, and Professor Quade drove the vans. He would lead Centenary to their first win ever, beating West Point Prep that year… Unfortunately the program was discontinued the following year, due to low numbers, as some enlisted in the Military, and others did not come out for the team.
The following year Dr. Stephanie Bennett Smith, the President of Centenary at the time, contacted Professor Quade. She had an Eagle Scout that she really wanted at Centenary, but he wanted to wrestle. President Smith asked Professor Quade to get the program started again.
Professor Quade had mats donated to the program, and they practiced in the Dance Studio, which was in the basement of a dorm. The mirrors on the walls made the 15 by 10 room look much bigger than it was. The team took much pride in having their own area, and it beat wrestling on wall mats in the old gymnasium.
Eventually after years of leading the Cyclone Wrestling Club Team, Professor Quade would step away from the program. He would allow someone with more knowledge to take over, but continued to provide moral support. Coach Joe Gomez would lead the Cyclones during their first years as a NCAA Division recognized team. He also dedicated much of his years to the Centenary wrestling program, and helped it through its pinnacle years during the transition of a club team, to being recognized by the NCAA.
In Spring of 2006, Centenary was considering dropping the program once again, as head coach at the time Doug Fink had resigned. Professor Quade begged to give one more chance for the program, and led the hiring committee. Centenary brought in John Garriques, a Phillipsburg Native.
“My first 3 years were tough, there was an image on campus, a stigma about wrestlers. The team practiced in a 10 by 10 locker-room, and did not have funds for new uniforms. We had to borrow the Men’s basketball Puma Warmups for our first competition. Through culture change, and creating a philosophy around our motto “Live the Good Life,” the program began to have success. Professor Quade was there throughout the thick and thin, always giving his moral support. I truly don’t think I could have gotten through my early years, without the support of Professor Quade.”
Professor Quade was great with his antics, as he wanted to show the team how dedicated he was. He became the FarFab representative for the entire Athletic Department. Quade would go to almost every home event for every sport, and would travel with the wrestling team, as they had asked him to be a part of building the program. His enthusiasm, and smile, would always brighten our days. Professor Q would send coach Garriques motivational e-mails each week, and was known to make interesting bets with the coaches, as well. One particular bet was if the team broke into the Top 15 National Rankings, he would dye his hair green, and if we broke into the top 10 he would dye the mustache, as well.
Emeritus Professor Quade was a highly respective person on campus. He always wore his bow-tie, and was the friendliest person on campus. So, as you can imagine, it drew a lot of attention to our program when he dyed his hair green, then tossed in his mustache, as well.
Professor Quade was able to see the wrestling program he started go from practicing on wall mats, to finding a donor who donated a 1.2 million dollar state-of-the-art wrestling facility. The team went from second-to-last in their Conference, to winning two consecutive Conference Championships and crowning the programs first All-American in 2010. He was able to witness 6 of our 11 All-Americans.
Professor Quade was not just a supporter of the wrestling program, as he also founded the Centenary Cross-Country program. He was a Centenary supporter, anything that supported Centenary, he was there. What drew him to Athletics, was his belief that Athletics can be the heart and soul of our University. Athletics can bring passion, dedication, and a community together, with the right leader.
The Wrestling Program had similar beliefs, and shared the same passion as Professor Q. We also made sure that Professor Quade was involved in everything that we did, as we appreciated everything that he stood for. He would keep up on our kids’ academics, along with the entire Athletic Department. The kids knew as well, if Professor Quade was talking to you about Academics, then you better listen, because he took education very seriously.
In 2012 during Public Eliminations “Wrestle offs”, in front of 450 fans, professor Quade agreed to do a skit match. For fun he wrestled Assistant Coach Mike Kessler, with Head Coach John Garriques refereeing… Professor Quade Put on a Singlet at 83 years young, and put on a great show. He was victorious that night, and the fans loved it. They gave the 83 year old a standing ovation.
A few months later, professor Quade started to not want to go on trips, and it was obvious his health was deteriorating. He would often swing into the wrestling office, and just crash on the couch, complaining his bones hurt. It wasn’t like him, as he always had a lot of energy. In May, we got the word that Professor Quade was terminally ill. He managed to come to Centenary one last time, where he was honored for his years of service. He gave an amazing speech, about bringing the school together and working together. In his speech, he acknowledged the wrestling program and Coach Garriques. He said he wasn’t sure who came up with the saying “Cyclone Pride,” if it was coach Garriques or not, but he was feeling the Pride. That type of PRIDE would continue to bring Centenary together. The wrestling coaching staff brought Professor Quade, and his wife to the honoring ceremony. They would be by his side until his final days.
“Professor Quade thanked Coach Garriques, for giving him new life in his later days. He said that the last 5 years were some of the most exciting years at Centenary.
The Wrestling program dedicated their season in honor of Professor Emerits Quade. The team competed at the 2013 Cliff Kean National Duals, which only represents the Elite top 16 teams in the Country. At the venue, Centenary beat Loras College Iowa in the first round and Augsburg in the quarterfinals. Augsburg had previously only been beaten by one other team since the inception of the National Duals. The only team that had ever beaten Augsburg was Wartburg, who had won 10 NCAA National Championships. Centenary had a well fought match with Wartburg in the semi-finals, but ended up losing 25-15. The team then bounced back and beat Cortland to take 3rd in the Country. Due to their success, Centenary was mentioned on 55 million televisions across America, as Fox College Sports aired the event.
Every time the team won a big match or Championship that year, they would roar in honor of Professor Quade. The reason being, before professor Quade passed, he sent coach Garriques an e-mail. It said every time the team wins, professor Quade wanted to hear a “roar”, as that is what animals do, and the wrestling team are animals…
The Cyclones kept on roaring having their best season in school history. Channel 12 New Jersey News even came into practice, as they heard about the story and wanted to do a feature story about the program and its success.
The team went on to win the NCAA East Regional Championship. They sent five guys to the NCAA’s, bringing home 3 All-Americans: JD Zitone 2nd, Chris Burdge 3rd, and Owen Vernon 6th. Zach Huxford and Corey Vernon also scored big at the tournament helping the team to place 6th at the NCAA’s.
Coach Garriques stated, “I learned a lot from Professor Quade. He taught me that everyone at Centenary is important, and how communication is key to our success. It doesn’t matter who it is, Professors, kitchen workers, facility workers, or even the President and board members, we are all here for the same reason: to make Centenary great. To this day, our program still lives by our Motto “Live the Good Life,” which means to be humble, be respectful, hold doors for people, smile, be kind, and give back to your community.”
If it were not for the man in the bow-tie, I do not know where we would be as a University. One thing is for sure, if it were not for Professor Quade, the wrestling program would not be where it is today. We will continue to spread his message, and continue to bring our community together, one door at a time…
If you are a Centenary faculty or staff member, alumnus, or current student and have a #CUSucceed story that you would like to submit, please feel free to send it to CUSucceed@CentenaryUniversity.edu