Tampa’s Caveman Wrestling adds to state titles
For Mike Joyce, there is no wrestling season. It is a wrestling year that never ends, just like the miles that pile up on the odometer as Joyce travels to wrestling meets all over the state.
Joyce, a former wrestling coach at Tampa Jesuit, is devoted to the sport. He has multiple state champions and one of his students at Caveman Wrestling in North Tampa, Franklin Gomez, wrestled in the 2012 Olympics. Joyce is the legal guardian for Gomez and quite proud.
Caveman, at 9426 Lazy Lane, is home to wrestlers from at least 21 high schools in the Tampa Bay area. Caveman Gym is a simple place. There aren’t a lot of frills, just two mats surrounded by concrete. It’s hot and stuffy, just the way a gym should be for someone ready to sweat his way to a state title.
Joyce loves his gym and so do the wrestlers, who range in age from very young to college age and come as much as six days a week.
Joyce has had the chance to coach high school again, but he’s happy with his own gym despite the offers that have come his way.
“I am never going to coach high school again,” Joyce said. “I coach wrestlers from all over, but I don’t look at it that way. I just say I am the Caveman coach.”
Joyce wrestled in high school but never had major aspirations, especially after suffering a neck injury in a car accident that pretty much ended his career. It was no big deal. He always wanted to coach anyway.
“I always knew I wanted to coach and I was lucky enough to get the chance,” Joyce said. “I couldn’t wrestle but I want to be around it. Nothing makes me happier than working with these kids and seeing them getting better and better.”
Joyce spends much of the year driving around the state from tournament to tournament. He has three sons – Ryan, Sean and Troy – who are wrestlers. Ryan is a state champion, Sean has won four state titles, and Troy is a wrestler at Brandon High, which means he is likely to win one for that successful program. Joyce said his wife, Debbie, is the reason for his success.
“I made one promise to my wife,” Joyce said. “I promised I would never have one of my sons wrestle against each other and I haven’t. She has supported me the whole way. I am doing what I want to do, but I could have never done this without her.”
Joyce’s reputation has grown. He is known throughout the country as one of the leading wrestling coaches, and college coaches are quickly attracted to a Caveman mention on a résumé. Joyce said he tries to help students get recruited and has written many letters to schools around the country. The Joyce name means a lot in the wrestling world.
“I’ve been around this sport forever,” Joyce said. “They all know me. What separates us is that I have 30 years in wrestling and people know our reputation. Our kids get good grades in school and we make sure that the kids know what college life is all about.”
He never loses the idea that it isn’t about simply winning state championships and getting a college scholarship.
“Anybody who comes to Caveman is going to have fun,” Joyce said. “It’s all about having fun.”