The Svingala brothers (Trent left; Caleb right) photo courtesy of the Svingala family
Wrestling is often referred to as a brotherhood, or an association with a society or group of people for a particular purpose. Oftentimes, one can only dream of wrestling alongside their actual brother: a true brotherhood. Fortunately, Trent and Caleb Svingala, both wrestlers at The University at Buffalo, have had their sights set on wrestling together at the Division I level since they stepped on the wrestling mats for the first time at just 7 and 5 years old, respectively.
Trent stated, "I was just 7 years old when I started, but I didn't originally think it would be a long road like this, or with the intention that I would focus so heavily on wrestling. I started Ju-Jitsu six months earlier and did wrestling to help with my training. Over time, it became a fun thing to do, I was good at it, and I enjoyed winning." He continued, "My earliest memory of Caleb and I wrestling together was working out in our garage, just him and I. From a young age, I remember working out together and getting better." Caleb added, "I was first introduced to wrestling at 5 years old as a practice partner for Trent. I wasn't doing any actual moves until roughly 6 months to a year later. Essentially, I was a stand-in for him to practice his moves on."
As Trent and Caleb continued their training at a young age, wrestling became the glue that bonded them together. Their passion for the sport flourished, their skills drastically improved, and their competitiveness fueled their days. "Caleb and I didn't originally plan on wrestling together, but it was a mutual agreement past a certain point in our training. We had grown up fighting each other all the time, and we decided that it would be mutually beneficial for us to both continue. If one of us didn't, we knew that it would be hard, since we both had an aggressive nature from a young age that was unmatched," said Trent. Caleb continued, "At first, because I was slightly younger than Trent, I thought wrestling was WWE. I didn't truly understand the difference. Once I understood the sport, realized the weight that it carried, and solidified my own skills, we knew that moving on in the sport together was going to be the best decision for us."
As the years passed, Trent and Caleb became standout wrestlers for Maple Hill High School in Castleton, New York. Trent was a three-year team captain for Maple Hill's wrestling team where he became a two-time New York State Champion and four-time state place finisher. Trent was a five-time Section Two All-Star, where his 250 career wins rank in the top five in New York State history. Caleb, following in his brother's footsteps, became a four-time New York State qualifier, finishing third in his senior season campaign. Additionally, he was a four-time Section Two Champion.
It was evident that Trent and Caleb's original decision to pursue wrestling together proved to be mutually beneficial. Trent said, "Wrestling alongside Caleb in high school was great. There was a lot of winning in our household, which felt good. But there were also a lot of butting heads, because when two people want to win so bad, it can be hard. Obviously, there were instances where one of us was not going to get our way at a specific moment in time. Then, we would have to go home and deal with it past the wrestling mat. It was a lot more than just a wrestling room for Caleb and I. It was a constant competition. It helped fuel us and make us better than our competition because there was an internal and constant fight to be better than each other, and a constant fight to win in the wrestling room." In addition, Caleb added, "The dynamic in high school lent itself to winning and trying to achieve our goals together. Trent and I were practice partners in high school and would push each other each day. When it came down to some of the toughest competition and tournaments, it was a great feeling to win sectional titles alongside your brother, both obtaining a winning bracket and medal."
When asked how Trent and Caleb have balanced friendly competition versus taking it too far growing up, Trent said, "There really isn't too much of a balance. Sometimes, it gets brought home because we know that we are both going to be in the wrestling room together again the next day. We're always working towards something. For example, if Caleb gets me today, I am definitely coming back and getting him tomorrow. That feeling lingers because we have to see each other at home. Honestly, it burns, but that burn allows us to want to win because we don't want to feel embarrassed at home by our brother. I believe that is a huge piece to the puzzle as to why we were so successful in high school." Caleb then said, "In the practice room, we realize there is a time and place for the competition. Obviously, we are always thinking about competing, and trying to be better than each other, but there is also a time when we need to help each other and work on our skills so when competition does come, we have the right mindset and skills ready to use."
Upon graduating from Maple Hill High School, both Trent and Caleb were faced with the tough choice of making their college decision. The two brothers spoke about their recruiting process, and how their bond ultimately played a key role in their final decisions. "The recruiting process for me upheld one message: I am going with my brother, or I'm not coming. Whatever deal the college and I worked out had to be mutually beneficial for myself, as well as Caleb, or I wouldn't go. At the time, I was a highly recruited individual and had a lot of offers and various opportunities (Buffalo, Columbia, and Cornell), but I initially chose Columbia because I thought it was the best fit for me. All three schools offered the same package to my brother, but the offer at Columbia began to change, which didn't align with my goals. My dream was never to simply wrestle DI. It was always to wrestle DI with my brother, and I didn't feel comfortable being anywhere that I wasn't wrestling alongside Caleb. I wanted to be on the same team as Caleb, as we had always grown up on the same team, and that wasn't something that I wanted to change going into college. I wasn't going to change my trajectory because Caleb was a large part of every single success that I've ever had in wrestling. I owe a lot to him and all the hours that he spent helping me get better on and off the mat," said Trent. Caleb responded, "I chose Buffalo because I loved the area, I loved my teammates, and I loved the coaching staff. I knew that Buffalo had a similar style to what I always had growing up - rough and in your face. If I wanted to progress as much as I could as a wrestler, then Buffalo was and is the right place for me."
Trent Svingala wrestling at Columbia (photo courtesy of the Svingala family)
With Trent at Columbia and Caleb at Buffalo, a decision had to be made. Would they set aside their childhood dreams for their own success? Would they each leave their current school and find an alternative one that would accept both? Or would one brother transfer and join the other? Ultimately, it was Trent who decided to transfer from Columbia to join Caleb at Buffalo. "At the time I was deciding to transfer, Columbia wasn't really wrestling much, and their following season would be canceled because of COVID. For me, it didn't make sense to continue my education at a school where you weren't sure what was happening, along with the fact that my brother wouldn't be there to help me reach my goals. There were a lot of questions up in the air, and not a lot of concrete decisions happening in the Ivy League itself. Caleb already having been on Buffalo's team helped make my decision a little bit easier, because if he had not already been there, I couldn't see myself there either. I don't think my coaches at the time understood how much of an emphasis I placed on wrestling alongside my brother. In the end, it worked out, and I am a lot happier at Buffalo. I knew that it would be a great fit for me with Coach Stutzman, and he provided me a great opportunity to come to Buffalo and wrestle with Caleb. I like Buffalo's style a lot more, and I feel like we are going to be a much better team in the near future. Overall, I like winning the most, and if I'm going to be at a place where I'm winning alongside Caleb, that's what matters to me."
Luckily, Trent and Caleb were able to live out their childhood dream: a true wrestling brotherhood. But how were they successful in doing so? Trent says, "I think I led the way a little bit. I had to figure out a lot of things on my own, where I then helped Caleb jump into situations that I had already learned from, whether right or wrong. It helped provide him with a blueprint for cutting weight, a blueprint for practicing hard, and a blueprint for life. I believe that I've helped him along the way to gain a better understanding of wrestling, where he would always be a step ahead of those in his class. In a way, I was able to help him figure out things that you don't usually experience until you're older and little bit later in your journey. I've been able to pass that on to him, so he's inherited a lot of knowledge early on that helped him make tremendous jumps and strides; always working harder and more passionately than those around him because he was exposed to that type of work ethic much younger than most." Caleb added, "I think we've achieved our childhood dream, not only by what Trent said, but by always living the life that you imagine. Always thinking about wrestling. Always thinking about what you have to do to beat certain people. Always being one step ahead of your competition. You have to think to yourself: What do I have to do that my competitors are not? How am I going to create an edge? As brothers, we've always incorporated wrestling into our everyday life. Even before bed, Trent and I think about what we have to do to be better the next day."
Tom Svingala, Trent and Caleb's father, said of the brothers, "My role in both of my sons' dreams to wrestle together at the Division I level was to help them find the right program that fit them. I helped by reaching out and developing relationships with coaches and helping them get exposure. Getting Trent and Caleb on the same team was a challenge because they entered college at different times. Even though a school may have promised to take them both, it didn't mean that they had to live up to that promise the following year, so it was a gamble that we had to and were willing to take. It ultimately took a transfer, but I'm just happy that in the end, both Trent and Caleb got to fulfill their dream together and we love the UB program." He then went on to say, "Growing up watching both of my sons compete against each other while also allowing them to gain valuable experiences from each other was tough, but luckily it only happened a handful of times. Most times my older son (Trent) would go up in weight to avoid this from happening. It was, however, amazing to watch them compete for so many years in back-to-back weight classes. I was able to watch one match and then shortly after, the other was up. Those are all memories that I will never forget."
When asked whether Caleb viewed Trent as a role model or competition growing up, he said, "It's a little bit of both, but he's always been an inspiration and role model to me. Trent is a role model in the sense that he always did everything first: winning a sectional title, placing at states, and eventually going on to compete at the DI level first. He even won multiple state titles, which I never accomplished. I've always felt that I was following in his footsteps. He has definitely paved the way for me and felt as though he wasn't just my brother, but a leader, and someone who I wanted to be like."
After reflecting on the many years of hard work and dedication that it took to get to a Division I level of wrestling, Trent and Caleb discussed some of the advantages and disadvantages of wrestling alongside your brother. Trent said, "The only disadvantage that I can think of is worrying about what and how Caleb is doing directly before a match since we are so close in weight. When Caleb and I are at a tournament, we are usually wrestling at the same time. It's very nerve-racking knowing that he is also nervous and trying to mentally prepare for battle. I don't feel like I can always fully give the support that is needed when I also have to prepare for my own match. Beyond that, I think there are many more advantages than disadvantages. For example, you always have a workout partner at your disposal who is the same weight, has the same competitive edge, and knows exactly what he's doing. One of the most underrated difficulties of wrestling is finding a good practice partner at the Division I level, and I know that Caleb is always ready to go and is making the right decisions on and off the mat. I enjoy knowing that I have someone to help me improve and get better every single day, and you can't overlook that aspect of wrestling. Partners that are as great as he has been all these years don't come around too often." Caleb then went on to say, "I agree with Trent that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. You always know that someone has your back outside of wrestling too. You often think about what your teammates are doing in their free time, and if they are activities that are benefiting them as wrestlers, competitors, and human beings. It's really nice to have someone to lean on and talk to during your free time who you know is making the right decisions."
The Svingala brothers after an MMA workout with Shane Burgos (Trent left; Caleb right) photo courtesy of the Svingala family
Beyond the wrestling mat, the two brothers share a common interest in multiple activities. Trent said, "We both share and are big into the MMA scene. Caleb and I grew up doing boxing, Ju-Jitsu, watching UFC, and MMA training together. We've pretty much done everything within that realm. Caleb and I have always done those things together growing up and it's our biggest hobby outside of wrestling. Luckily for us, it translates to wrestling well, and is very similar. But it's enough away from wrestling that we can both have a good time enjoying it, separately but together." Caleb then followed up with, "Sports, in general, have always been a way that Trent and I have bonded, above and beyond wrestling. We're always competing, and we're always watching competitions, whether it's the NFL, NBA, UFC, etc. Trent and I bond in any way that we can and compete in any way possible."
Trent and Caleb both have their sights set on greatness in the near future. Trent said, "I'm just going to say it; there are a lot of people out there that think they can do the MMA scene, but there is no one in college wrestling right now that is ahead of me in that game. I am looking forward to making that jump past my wrestling career, and I'm excited about what Caleb and I are going to do beyond this season, and in life. We've had a hard journey up until this point, but there is a lot more to come." Caleb also said, "I want people to know that we are working our butts off with the rest of the team. Not only Trent and I, but the entire UB Wrestling team is going to surprise a lot of people in the coming years. I still have four years of eligibility, and it's something that wrestling fans can be on the lookout for."
According to Tom, Trent's greatest attribute is the diversity he has in his skill set. "He is also a world-class competitor in Judo, Brazilian Ju-Jitsu, Boxing, and Muay Thai. He takes and uses little things from those other sports and training that at times makes what he does differently than most in the Division I level," he said. As for Caleb, his greatest attribute is his self-discipline. "He sets goals for himself, plans out what he needs to do in order to achieve that goal, and follows through with them. He also refuses to do things that might deter him from getting those goals. In this sport, that goes a long way" continued Tom.
As previously stated, wrestling is often referred to as a brotherhood or a group of people working towards a common interest, goal, or overall purpose. Trent and Caleb Svingala have truly defined what it means to be a brother, friend, teammate, and role model.