Pictured are members of Madison Heights Bishop Foley’s wrestling program. Foley coach Berney Gonzales said winning a district title is a team goal.

Pictured are members of Madison Heights Bishop Foley’s wrestling program. Foley coach Berney Gonzales said winning a district title is a team goal.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Bishop Foley wrestling coach has the kind of history that can motivate his team

By: Mark Vest | Madison - Park News | Published December 13, 2017

 Bishop Foley wrestler Kendel Taylor performs a move on an opponent from Berkley High at a recent match. With a team that combines students from Foley and Madison Heights Madison, there are 20 wrestlers on the squad.

Bishop Foley wrestler Kendel Taylor performs a move on an opponent from Berkley High at a recent match. With a team that combines students from Foley and Madison Heights Madison, there are 20 wrestlers on the squad.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

During a recent intrasquad competition, Madison Heights Bishop Foley junior Jakob Hoffman had the opportunity to wrestle against his coach, 64-year-old Berney Gonzales.

“Coach still brings it,” Hoffman said. 

Those who are aware of Gonzales’ wrestling feats probably wouldn’t be too surprised by that assessment.

Gonzales includes being a junior world Olympic champion, a three-time junior national champion and a two-time state champion at Madison Heights Madison as some of his accomplishments.

Those are the kind of achievements that can help get the attention of young athletes.

“It’s insane to think that I’m being coached by an Olympic gold medalist — somebody that went to Tokyo, wrestled for our country and won,” Hoffman said. “It shows me that if I put in enough work, do the right things, put the right stuff in my body, I can be where he was. I can go to the Olympics; I can be on the U.S. team if I truly put my mind to it.”

Gonzales can captivate an audience with stories of his experiences on the mat.

“When I’m telling my stories to the kids, you could hear a pin drop in the room,” he said. “I can relate to them: ‘Here’s how you have to be if you (want to) get to the top.’ … When I tell them stories, it’s so effective because they’re true stories.”

Foley’s wrestling program is in a co-op with Madison Heights Madison. Max Burk is a sophomore at Madison, and he doesn’t have to look far for proof that success stories can come from his school.

“It gives me a lot more inspiration,” Burk said. “I can see that someone (who) went to Madison made it that far, and I can make it that far.”

As long as Gonzales continues to have fun, he has no plans to give up coaching anytime soon.

What could help make this season a fun one would be to win a district championship, which Gonzales cited as a team goal.

He also mentioned Kendel Taylor (Foley), Daniel Lenox (Madison), Hoffman and Daniel Grembi (Foley) as wrestlers who will have a chance to qualify for the state finals.

Gonzales said there are currently 20 wrestlers on his squad, with 14 from Foley and six from Madison.

He described the state of the program as solid. Things could get even better if Gonzales can get more wrestlers from Madison.

“That’s how it will grow: if I can get 15 from Foley, 15 from Madison,” he said. “Now we’re talking 30. … The state of the program now is up; it’s positive. We’ve had a good thing going.”