Westmont Magazine Wolf's Last Howl

By Jacob Norling '20

At the end of his 32nd year, the greatest head coach in Westmont men’s soccer history officially retired in November. Dave Wolf, who became head coach in fall 1991, has won a record 362 games.

Coach Dave Wolf

During that period, the Warriors captured the Golden State Athletic Conference (GSAC) Regular Season Championship nine times and the GSAC Tournament Championship seven times. Wolf took 10 teams to the NAIA National Tournament during his 32 years, coaching 21 NAIA All-Americans. He was also named GSAC Coach of the Year on five occasions: 1993, 1994, 1995, 2016 and 2019.

At an event honoring Wolf in the fall, President Gayle D. Beebe began his remarks by joking, “I feel like I’m Ted Lasso being invited to honor Lionel Messi.”

Beebe’s words largely revolved around the 2008 season, the year in which the Tea Fire claimed the Wolf’s home, as well as 13 other faculty homes in Las Barrancas. Two days later, Wolf led his team amid great adversity to an upset victory over Azusa Pacific, 2-0, to win the GSAC Championship.

Coach Dave Wolf in 1996

Sophomore forward Harrison Hill ’11, famous for scoring the first goal of the match, retrieved the ball from the back of the net, handed it to Wolf and said, “Here’s the first brick in your new house.”

Wolf’s electrifying 2008 club went from sixth-seed in the conference tournament to being an NAIA quarterfinalist by year’s end.

“It was one of the most riveting experiences of my entire life in the realm of athletics,” Beebe said. “Watching [Wolf] lead our team, and in fact our entire community, was incredibly inspiring as we all recovered from the Tea Fire.

“Beyond the 300-plus wins, the hundreds of practices and the thousands of hours spent perfecting his craft, Dave Wolf has maintained an equilibrium that is remarkable. We are enormously grateful for his contribution to our community and our college.”

Wolf’s final season came to a climax in dramatic fashion this fall, with the Warriors needing to win both their final regular season games to earn the sixth and final spot in the GSAC Tournament. First, on October 27, Aldo Becerril saved Westmont’s season with a 90th-minute goal in a 1-0 win over William Jessup. Then, on October 29, senior captain Michael Palmer scored the lone goal in a 1-0 win over Menlo, sending the Warriors to the GSAC Tournament and giving Wolf a win in his final game on Thorrington Field.

Westmont’s run and Wolf’s career ended the following week, when the club dropped a 2-0 match to Ottawa University (Surprise, Arizona) in the GSAC Quarterfinals. After the match, Wolf reflected on the end of his head-coaching journey.

“I will miss the experience of the journey that each season provided,” Wolf said. “You go through all kinds of different stuff. This has been a very full year. I told the guys at the end that one thing was for sure — this last year wasn’t boring.”

Following his retirement, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes gave Wolf the Layton Shoemaker Award at the National Soccer Coaches Convention in Philadelphia. Named for the late Messiah University head coach, the award recognizes a coach who honors God on and off the field and models a strong relationship with Christ to their players.

“Layton actually visited Westmont because he was part of a conversation about the intersection of faith and athletics,” Wolf says. “Coach Shoemaker was a real champion for that cause, especially inside the world of small-Christian-college coaching.

“He had a heart for coaches with a faith background having a place to get together, which happened at the National Soccer Coaches Convention. It’s a wonderful place for coaches from the faith-based community to gather.”

Wolf appreciated the honor for several reasons, including the fact that Shoemaker was a contemporary of Joe Bean, whom Wolf played for at Wheaton, and the legendary Westmont soccer coach Russ Carr.