New coaches do things the right way
New breed of coaches ready for opportunity to follow in big shoes
Every August and September when college classes open for business, wrestling coaches start to take a fine-tooth comb to their rosters.
Who is going to replace that All-American at 125 pounds a year ago?
Is that highly-touted freshman going to be ready to step on the mat without a redshirt?
How is my wife going to take me being in the office and workout room most of the next six months?
These are the questions coaches and their staff members are asking still two months before the first whistle is blown.
For North Dakota State, that head coach will be a new one for the first time since 1964. Bucky Maughan led the Bison to four Division II titles and spearheaded the program's move to Division I. He retired after 47 seasons during the summer.
The new man in charge will be Roger Kish, a Michigan native who was a two-time NCAA finalist while wrestling for Minnesota. It will be the first head coaching job for the 2008 graduate.
At Drexel, Matt Azevedo takes over for Jack Childs, who retired after 35 seasons leading the Dragons.
"You're not just a coach, you're an educator," said Childs, a tenured professor on the faculty. "So many coaches don't realize that. Somebody gets in trouble, they cut him because someone else is waiting in the wings. Here, we've tried to work through everything we can."
Azevedo worked as an assistant at Cornell and Cal Poly before arriving in Philadelphia. Like Kish, he will be a first-year coach.
Tim Dernlan (Clarion), David Cameron (Sacred Heart) and Joe Russell (George Mason) will also be rookies on the sidelines. Perhaps 'rookie' is not a good description for Dernlan or Russell -- Dernlan was an assistant at Penn State for seven seasons with Russell working for J Robinson's Gophers for 17 years.
Most in the wrestling community will be keeping an eye on Russell's progress at his new home. It's no secret Russell, a native of Oregon, is considered one of the 'good guys' of wrestling's close-knit family.
In June of 2007 he was honored with the Medal of Courage by the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum. The award is presented annually to a wrestler or former wrestler who has overcome what appeared to be insurmountable challenges -- physical, mental or other handicaps making his or her achievements all the more uplifting.
In 1985 Russell was an up-and-coming star in Oregon. As a junior in high school he won a national title in freestyle and Greco-Roman and earned a medal at the Espoir World Championships. But in 1985 a motorcycle accident left Russell partially paralyzed on the left side of his body. He spent three weeks in a coma and the process was long and arduous.
Russell earned his degree in 1992, completed his juris doctorate in 1995 and a master's in sports management in 2006. Russell is a licensed attorney.
“I tell them the story because I think some of the lessons I learned can help the kids. It teaches them not to fear failure and to just go after their goals,” Russell said.
There are 78 Division I head coaching jobs. The 'haves' get to work with 9.9 scholarships. Many of the 'have-nots' are forced to work with a limited number, including George Mason, a program that allocates 3.5 out-of-state scholarships and 2.0 in-state.
“I still think it’s a program that can be successful. I just have to get in there and put my nose to the grindstone and work hard,” Russell said. “It’s got a ways to go.”
The Patriots did not qualify a wrestler for the 2011 NCAA Championships.
Dernlan goes from the 2011 NCAA champion Nittany Lions to a program trying to recapture some of its glory from past decades.
"I so admire and respect former Clarion head coach Bob Bubb," Dernlan said. "He built a tradition that only a few men have achieved in our great sport. He is a man dedicated to building men of integrity, character and action. His record stands among the nation's elite and is an NWCA Wrestling Hall of Famer. I hope to follow and build upon the qualities that coach Bubb was dedicated to, along with all of the great men who have built the tradition and family that I am now a part of.
"I hope to honor them all by doing things the right way for the right reasons and restore Clarion wrestling to national prominence."