Valentin Kalika named 2016 USA Wrestling Women’s Coach of the Year

By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling | May 04, 2017, 12:35 p.m. (ET)
Valentin Kalika receives his USA Wrestling Women's Coach of the Year award from USA Wrestling Executive Director Rich Bender during the 2017 World Team Trials in Las Vegas. Photo by Larry Slater.

Valentin Kalika (New York, N.Y./Titan Mercury WC) has been named 2016 Women's Coach of the Year by USA Wrestling. It is the first time that Kalika has won this award.

He was one of the official coaches for the 2016 U.S. Olympic women’s team which competed in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The USA won a gold medal by Helen Maroulis at 53 kg, and two-time Olympian Elena Pirozhkova placed fifth at 63 kg. Also placing in the top 10 for Team USA in Rio were Adeline Gray (7th at 75 kg) and Haley Augello (9th at 48 kg).

Kalika is the personal coach of two 2016 U.S. Olympians in women’s freestyle, Elena Pirozhkova and Helen Maroulis. He worked with them during much of the last Olympic cycle, and has continued to coach them into the new Olympic cycle which began in 2017.

Kalika has over 35 years of professional coaching experience in Ukraine, Israel and the United States. In 2016, he worked as the Coaches Education Coordinator for Beat the Streets Los Angeles and also served as a coach for the internationally-respected Titan Mercury Wrestling Club which is located in San Marino, Calif. This year, he became a coach for Columbia University’s New York City Regional Training Center.

He has been one of the most active coaches from the United States in recent years, coaching top American athletes at international events in men’s and women’s freestyle. In his role as an assigned coach or club coach for competitors, Kalika has worked with both men and women athletes in Russia, France, Cuba, Bulgaria, Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, Spain, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Mongolia, Croatia and Serbia in recent years.

He has also served as the personal coach for men’s freestyle star Aaron Pico, who was a Cadet World champion, two-time Junior World medalist and was a runner-up at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials.

As a volunteer, Kalika was very active in wrestling in California at many levels and has also coached in a variety of roles with California USA Wrestling. He also coached his son Yuri Kalika to a California state high school title and to All-American status at the Junior Nationals.

A native of Kiev, Ukraine, Kalika excelled in Greco-Roman wrestling, where he was a Ukrainian national champion and was also a Soviet Union U.S.S.R. University champion. Kalika earned a Master’s Degree in Professional Coaching and Sports Education from Kiev Sports University in Ukraine. He served a year as Head Coach of the Ukrainian Junior National Team.

With a goal of moving to the United States, Kalika left Ukraine in 1991, and spent three years in Israel, where he was a National Team coach and club coach there. He was able to emigrate to the United States in 1994, and lived in Orange County, Calif. for more than 20 years.

For many years, Kalika worked a variety of jobs to support himself and his family, while finding the time to coach the sport as a volunteer. Many of the athletes he helped coach went on to win state, regional and national-level events. From 2004-2007, he hosted a training camp in Ukraine, where young American wrestlers could train with the Ukrainian National Team. He continues to bring athletes to Ukraine for training and competition opportunities.

Kalika won a Veterans World title in Greco-Roman for the United States in 2009, competing at 69 kg/152 lbs. in Division D (51-55 years old). He was also a Veterans Nationals champion in 2009.

Titan Mercury WC has become a national and international power in women’s wrestling, with Kalika one of its top women’s wrestling coaches.

2016 – Valentin Kalika, New York, N.Y., Titan Mercury WC
2015 – Aaron Sieracki, Colorado Springs, Colo., U.S. Army WCAP
2014 – Afsoon Johnston, San Diego, Calif.
2013 – Archie Randall, Mustang, Okla., OKCU Gator Women’s RTC
2012 – Vladislav “Izzy” Izboinikov, Colorado Springs, Colo., USA Wrestling
2011 – Kevin Black, River Falls, Wis., New York AC
2010 – Keith Wilson, Colorado Springs, Colo., Sunkist Kids
2009 – Kevin Black, River Falls, Wis., New York AC
2008 - Tadaaki Hatta, Elyria, Ohio, New York AC
2007 - Troy Steiner, Corvallis, Ore.
2006 - Joe Corso, Metairie, La. ,Gator WC
2005 - Bill Scherr, Glenview, Ill., Sunkist Kids
2004 - Tricia Saunders, Phoenix, Ariz., Sunkist Kids
2003 - Townsend Saunders, Phoenix, Ariz., Sunkist Kids
2002 - Joe Corso, Des Moines, Iowa, Sunkist Kids