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Wrestling: First year for NH, 40th for Panthers

Wrestling: First year for NH, 40th for Panthers
Wrestling: First year for NH, 40th for Panthers
Coach Wes Koch, center, goes over instructions with wrestlers at North Harrison. It's the first year for the sport in Ramsey. Photos by Brian Smith

Corydon Central enters its 40th year of high school wrestling during the 2017-18 school year, while rival North Harrison is entering the sport for the first time.
The Cougars will be coached by Wes Koch, a former Jeffersonville High School wrestler.
Here is a preview of both programs:
Corydon Central
Regan Gusler, a former Corydon Central wrestler and assistant coach, will return to the Panthers’ program as its third head coach.
‘I retired from it 10 years ago and didn’t expect to ever come back,’ Gusler said. ‘It’s been a good return.’
The start of the season is the 40th for the program, a hallmark year. Banking on the tradition of Corydon Central wrestling, Gusler has enlisted the assistance of several volunteers with ties to the program. Assistant coach Jimmy Ward joins the staff as well.
‘Jimmy and his brother (Jason) were at Crawford County for a few years coaching, and I’m glad they’re back at Corydon,’ Gusler said. ‘(Jimmy’s) been involved with wrestling a lot more recently than I have, so he’s been helpful with the subtle changes.’
One change Gusler welcomes is the wrestling room, located on the second floor at the school which overlooks the back parking lot.
‘In the past, we practiced on the stage, band room, a closet and now we have a top-notch facility,’ Gusler said. ‘That’s really nice. We don’t have to roll the mats out then roll them back up. We always, in the past, had to scrounge for a space. This feels like a real wrestling room.’
Gusler teased that the current crop of wrestlers at Corydon Central are spoiled with the practice area.
‘These guys don’t have any idea what the old guys went through to practice,’ he said.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the battle to recruit athletes to wrestle.
‘It’s still a challenge to get kids out and keep them out,’ Gusler said. ‘We’ve bounced around having 14, 10 or 11 wrestlers at practice. We have a good group of freshmen, so that’s a good sign.’
One veteran ‘ regional qualifier senior Tyson Trumpower ‘ returns to the program.
‘We have one senior that’s a first-year wrestler ” Drake Woodlock” but Tyson is our only four-year senior on the team,’ Gusler said. ‘We have high expectations for him, and he has high expectations for himself, too. He wants to go out and do well.’
Trumpower is slated to compete in the 152-pound weight class, the same as a season ago.
The junior group is filled with returnees Jon Ray (120), Dylan Raisor (132) and Colin Smith (138). Three wrestlers ” Chris Radcliff (182), Johnathon Taylor (195) and Tanner Bolen (285) ‘ make up the sophomores. The largest class in terms of grade is the freshmen with Devin Murphy (113), Lucas Faith (126), Dalton Jenkins (145) and Chase Straub (220) hitting the mat.
An early goal of the coaching staff was to fill every weight class.
‘We have some holes to fill, and we’re trying to get some eligible,’ Gusler said. ‘We think when the grades come out, we should have 10 of the 14 weight classes filled. Our goal was to try and fill all our weight classes and, from there, get the numbers back up in the program.’
To increase the number of participants, Gusler is looking at the next generation. Numbers are good in the junior high program along with children of former Corydon Central wrestlers coming up the ranks.
‘If we can keep recruiting four or five freshmen each year, we should be fine,’ Gusler said. ‘Our junior high program is doing well and has a good number of eighth graders. We are confident we can field a full team next year … The thing that will help us is our volunteer coaches have kids that are at the elementary and junior high levels. They will be the next generation of Corydon wrestlers.’
Thus far, attendance has been good and the effort is there. The program is hopeful results will show on the mat. One practice per week takes place at 6 a.m., which is well attended, to allow athletes to have a free afternoon after school.
‘Wrestling is hard and painful,’ Gusler said. ‘We have to convince them it’s not that bad. Then, eventually, they will begin to like it and love it.’
For the newbies, the first match will be an experience.
‘Some of our guys have never seen a wrestling match, so, when we go on (last) Saturday, it will be new for them,’ Gusler said.
Corydon Central will host Crawford County on Tuesday at 6 p.m. The Panthers will also host the annual Old Capital Classic on Saturday, Jan. 6.
North Harrison
Wes Koch moved to Harrison County in 2002 and, with his wrestling background (he’s a 1998 Jeffersonville High School graduate) along with coaching at the local Little League baseball fields, was mentioned as a coach for the start-up wrestling program at North Harrison.
Expecting to coach a handful of kids, Koch has been blown away by the interest in the sport when he took the gig.
‘There has been a huge demand for wrestling, and numbers have been good,’ he said. ‘We have limited space, so, through attrition, the numbers have gone down some … We have 20 young men on the roster.’
In a demanding sport like wrestling, 20 is a big number, especially for a start-up.
‘We started the program on short notice, but Dusty Rhodes jumped in as an assistant coach and we haven’t looked back since we started,’ Koch said.
Within the wrestling room, a converted classroom located on the second floor of North Harrison Middle School, Koch said he has four wrestlers with experience.
‘The majority of them are experiencing wrestling for the first time,’ he said.
Wrestling practices often test the mental will and physical endurance of athletes.
‘It’s been a balancing act as a coach,’ Koch said. ‘As new program, you don’t want to scare guys away, but I haven’t been easy on them. As a wrestling coach, I have to prepare them for the awakening of what it takes to wrestle. We have to work hard on our wrestling conditioning.’
For those new to the sport, the Cougars have quickly caught on to what a double leg and cross face are among other wrestling techniques and attacks.
‘Right now, we are teaching and developing,’ Koch said. ‘I also want to be a positive influence in the lives of these young men. They are going to be the future of our community. I look it as it isn’t about the wins and losses; wrestling is about teaching respect, character and dignity. I still use my wrestling background to deal with adversity in my life. It’s a very mentally tough and physically demanding sport. It will build the self-esteem of these kids.’
Established programs have the advantage of bringing back alumni to not only volunteer, but lend an ear to the next generation. Over time, Koch sees North Harrison becoming one of those communities. As a coach, he’s had support from former teammate Adam Doherty (current Charlestown coach), Floyd Central coach Brandon Sisson, Louisville Trinity coach Patrick Fleming and Jeffersonville’s Danny Struck.
Koch is slated to have former Jeffersonville standout and Indiana University wrestler Alonzo Shepherd speak to the Cougars.
‘Alonzo was a state qualifier and former Indiana wrestler that graduated from Jeff with a 4.0 (grade-point average); he’s now a scientist,’ Koch said. ‘That’s my goal for these kids. We want them to win and excel, but it’s the total package we are after. Some of these guys may be in college this time next year or in two years. I want them to learn leadership and (that), when you get knocked down seven times, you get up eight.’
Senior Skylar Mann (145 pounds), junior Elijah Nash (138) and senior Kohana Wilks (182) are among the more seasoned wrestlers.
‘Elijah Nash and Skylar Mann are previous wrestlers,’ Koch said. ‘Kohana Wilks had wrestled in California and brings experience.’
Also among the seniors are Josh Kemp (182), Avery Blocker (195) and Brett Rudolph (220).
Nearly all the weight classes are filled out, and, with 20, a junior varsity roster will compete as well.
‘The guys are catching on real well,’ Koch said. ‘It doesn’t matter who you are in wrestling; there are no politics. If you want to wrestle, we will have wrestle-offs in weight classes if you want a spot.’
Being the first coach at North Harrison, Koch said the chance has been positive on his life.
‘These guys, I’ve had nothing but good young men,’ he said. ‘I’m following the leadership of North Harrison. It’s one big family here. It’s family and community based. Being from Jeffersonville, it isn’t as home grown as it is here.’
North Harrison’s next match will be Tuesday, Dec. 5, at West Washington.