"The New Guys"
A look at the DI head coaches who will be entering their first seasons at their respective schools.
Each and every offseason the "Coaching Carousel" spins seemingly out of control, with domino effects reverberating throughout each conference in the country. This year, of course, was no different. D1CW looks into these new coaches backgrounds, why they will succeed and potential roadblocks they may face.
Bloomsburg: Marcus Gordon
Background: Marcus Gordon had spent the past three seasons as an assistant coach at Bloomsburg. Prior to that he was an assistant coach for six seasons at DII Ashland University.
Positives: Continuity and Stabilty. Marcus will be the Huskies third head coach in five seasons. After John Stutzman left following the 2012-13 season, there was the normal turnover that usually takes places with a coaching change. Since Gordon was a Bloomsburg assistant, the thought is that the possible attrition from transfers will be kept to a minimum. The school and coaching staff have enough on their plate, they do not need to get into APR problems either.
Hopefully, now that Marcus has officially been named the schools head coach, he will eliminate some of the uncertainty that he had to face on the recruiting trail and they can find future Huskies.
Hurdles: Talent. Gordon inherits a team that has went 1-30 over the past two seasons in dual competition and sent no wrestlers to the 2016 NCAA Championships. One of the hallmarks of the program under John Stutzman was his ability to develop lesser known recruits into nationally competitive DI wrestlers. This will be a necessity for Gordon as well.
Money. It's no secret that Bloomsburg has not been close to fully-funded by the school. Coach Gordon will need to be a great fundraiser to supplement this.
Recruiting. Marcus was hired officially on October 20th after the previous head coach Jason Mester left in late August. As mentioned above, he now can now answer questions from the parents of recruits about his future with the team. However, the late start puts him significantly behind the eight ball on the recruiting scene. Most new coaches on this list were hired in the spring and brought in some of their own incoming Freshman. He does not get to do so and may now have fallen behind with the Class of 2017.
Boise State: Mike Mendoza
Background: Mike Mendoza gets to stay in the Pac-12. He comes to Boise State from CSU Bakersfield, where he was the head coach from the prior six seasons. Before being named the head coach, he was previously the head assistant coach for eight years in Bakersfield.
Positives: Resourcefulness. Mendoza built a reputation for cobbling together very solid teams at CSU Bakersfield despite financial limitations and a very few big name recruits. He was an assistant in late 2010 when the school announced that they would be dropping wrestling as a sport. Mike, along with the late TJ Kerr, was instrumental in reversing the decision and insuring the future of the sport at the school.
A new face/voice. Coach Mendoza takes the place of Greg Randall who had been the head coach for the previous 14 seasons. Since the Broncos high water mark in 2010-11, which was capped with a 9th place finish at Nationals qualifying all 10 wrestlers, BSU has been on a steady decline qualifying only two wrestlers for NCAA's in each of the past three seasons.
California Pipeline. When Boise State was at their best they were recruiting and signing some of the best high schoolers in the Northwest. Mendoza's connections in the always fertile recruiting grounds of California can't hurt!
Hurdles: Top level recruiting. Once again, looking back at the 2010-11 BSU team, they had cornerstones which featured a group of blue chip recruits. Adam Hall was the #44 overall recruit from the Class of 2006, Kirk Smith was the #9 overall recruit from the Class of 2007, Jason Chamberlain was the #18 overall recruit from the Class of 2008 and Jake Swartz was the #35 overall recruit from the Class of 2009. Looking at D1CW's recruiting rankings from 2010-16, the Broncos only signed 5 top 100 recruits and out of those 5, none were from the top 50. It also remains to be seen if Coach Mendoza can attract that type of talent as well. During his tenure as CSU Bakersfield, the Hammond brothers (Bryce and Coleman) were the only top 100 recruits that were signed.
In-State talent. Coach Mendoza goes from an area where he had four of his five 2016 NCAA qualifiers hailing from Bakersfield to Idaho, a state that only had one NCAA qualifier last year and five in the previous four years. Chicken and the egg argument, will a more successful Boise State team trickle down to the high school/youth level or do they need the kids to develop quicker at the high school level for the Broncos to win?
Cal Poly: Jon Sioredas
Background: Jon Sioredas comes to Cal Poly after spending two seasons as a head coach at Grand Canyon University. The program was in the process of transitioning to DI from DII before it was dropped last spring. Prior to his tenure at Grand Canyon, Sioredas most recently assisted for two seasons at Chattanooga.
Positives: West Coaster at Heart. Maybe it's due to his roots in the beach area of Virginia, but Sioredas has integrated himself nicely since coming to the West Coast two years ago. Sioredas and his staff at Grand Canyon signed an impressive group of wrestlers from California and Arizona, most of which never got to compete for him. Three of the top 150 wrestlers from 2016 signed with GCU and two from 2015 as well.
Building/Rebuilding. It should be noted that the talent he brought into Grand Canyon signed with him during the transition to DI, so some of them were aware they would lose a year of competition due to this fact. Is that belief in a coach or what? He also did this at a school with no significant wrestling tradition, in a state that doesn't regularly produce top level talent and head to head with in-state rival Arizona State in the midst of a resurrection under new head coach Zeke Jones.
New Style. Though he will fit in with the beach lifestyle on the West Coast, don't get it confused. Sioredas has roots with the Iowa-style and his teams will likely reflect this. As a competitor he finished his college career wrestling for Terry Brands at Chattanooga, wrestled in high school and coached alongside Steve Martin, and has Hawkeye Mike Hatcher on staff.
Hurdles: Name Recognition. Novice fans and some parents/recruits are probably not going to recognize his name without an introduction. Judging by his recruiting at Grand Canyon and so far at Cal Poly, this probably will not be an issue for long.
Competition. At the end of the day competition is a good thing, but he will be recruiting and wrestling against a renewed group of teams in the Pac-12. Oregon State has been the class of the conference for the past half decade, Stanford has established themselves as a team that can recruit at a high level, perform on the mat and provide a high quality education, and now Arizona State is becoming the "Place to Be" on the West Coach for top level kids all over the country. The remaining two teams in the conference also hired new head coaches and figure to be reinvigorated. Also, we don't know where they'll compete, but it's safe to say Fresno State will be a factor in the in-state recruiting battles as well.
Columbia: Zach Tanelli
Background: Zach Tanelli is fresh off of a stint as the Head Assistant Coach for two seasons at Purdue. He also served as the Boilermakers interim head coach during their coaching change.
Hometown connections. Tanelli hails from Millburn, New Jersey, a relatively short trip across the river from Columbia in New York City. Prior to coaching at Purdue, Zach had a five year stint on Long Island coaching at Hofstra. He will likely use the connections he established on the island and in Jersey to establish a strong recruiting base. This has been evident and fruitful already, as Tanelli has received a verbal commitment from FloWrestling's #29 overall recruit Brandon Kui. He is likely the Lion's highest ranked recruit since Matt Palmer in 2002.
New Style. Zach mentioned to me on the D1CW/Sudden History EIWA Preview Podcast (Episode 28) that he intends on working on the hand-fighting skills of the team overall and will have a more physical group. In addition to his time at Purdue, Tanelli spent his career competing at Wisconsin so it's not surprising that he would like to see the team adopt a Big Ten-style toughness.
Hurdles: Tradition. Though Columbia has a long wrestling history, it is not one that features a boatload of accolades. Lion wrestlers have combined to earn All-American honors only six times since 1951 and the last Ivy League title was in 1982, much less an EIWA Championship. In order to rise up the ranks of the Ivy and EIWA, Columbia will need to go head to head with Cornell, a resurgent Princeton team, and a consistently solid Penn team both on the mats and on the recruiting trail.
Recruiting. After the mention in the "Hometown Connections" portion of the breakdown, maybe this won't be a concern. However, looking at recent history, Columbia has not had a top 100 recruit since current assistant coach Steve Santos came aboard in 2009. It will at least be something to keep an eye on.
CSU Bakersfield: Manny Rivera
Background: Manny Rivera will be coming home to California after spending his previous five seasons as an assistant at North Dakota State. He also spent a year coaching at Virginia prior to North Dakota State.
Local kid. With a roster comprised of solely California residents it was important for the Roadrunners new head coach to have local ties. In comes Manny Rivera. Manny was able to get a few California kids to leave their home state for Fargo, North Dakota, so expect for him to work well in his home state.
Semi-Stocked Cupboard. Compared to the other new coaches in the Pac-12, Manny Rivera is inheriting the most talent from day one. Neither Boise State or Cal Poly is left with a single NCAA qualifier. CSU Bakersfield has one, plus a few other veterans that may be poised for a breakthrough.
Increased Support. On the D1CW/Sudden History Pac-12 Preview Podcast (Episode 30) I spoke with CSU Bakersfield's Associate Head Coach Jeff Silveira who informed us that the administration at the school is coming around and starting to support the team in ways they never had previously. This is huge for a school that has had to raise funds to support their budget in the past.
Hurdles: Fundraising. Though in my above point the Roadrunner administration has apparently decided to increase support for the wrestling team, one would think fundraising would still account for a huge part of the teams budget. We just don't know how much experience Manny has fundraising and to what extent. Rivera does have resources in Silveira and Efren Ceballos, both holdovers from the Mike Mendoza regime that should be able to assist.
Development. Manny Rivera's staff will have to continue the trend of developing these under the radar California wrestlers that typically are on the CSU Bakersfield roster. Without a lineup full of blue chip prospects, Mike Mendoza's Roadrunners were able to scratch together an 11-4 dual record and was 4-1 in Pac-12 duals. In order for CSU Bakersfield to succeed, the development of the lesser known wrestlers will have to continue.
Fresno State: Troy Steiner
Background: Troy Steiner has been tabbed to lead the reboot of the Fresno State wrestling program after a ten year absence. During those ten years Steiner was an assistant coach for Oregon State. He was also an assistant under Beavers head coach Jim Zalesky when he coached at Iowa.
Best of the Best. Fresno State is located in the heart of high school wrestling country. The Central Valley area is known as one of the five best areas in the nation for high school wrestling. Steiner will not have to go far to find top DI recruits. He has already received commitments from a state Runner-Up and 3rd place finisher who are less than 30 miles from the school.
Excitement. There is a sense of excitement locally and nationally surrounding the rebirth of the Bulldog wrestling program. It's not often that DI programs are added or reinstated so there will be a great deal of attention surrounding the program.
Hurdles: Inexperience/Time. Despite all of the great recruits and transfers that Troy Steiner will end up starting in 2017-18, they will be a young team. Getting Fresno State to the level that fans expect will not happen over night. They will need a few years to accumulate depth and a couple of recruiting cycles worth of wrestlers.
Affiliation. A big question regarding the future of the team is "Where exactly are these guys going to wrestle"? Geographically, the Pac-12 makes the most sense, however, the conference is not keen on taking in any more members from non Pac-12 schools. In their last incarnation, Fresno State competed out of the now defunct West Region. Those schools have now joined the Big 12. This seems like the best bet right now, though travel costs would be outrageous with the closest "in-conference" opponent being in Orem, Utah.
Michigan State: Roger Chandler
Background: Though he is a first-year head coach Roger Chandler is, by no means, a new coach for Michigan State. He enters his twentieth season as a coach in East Lansing. Prior to last year he was named the head coach designate when Tom Minkel announced his intentions to retire after 25 years at the helm.
New attitude. For years the Spartans have struggled in the Big Ten. To be exact, since 2011 MSU has finished either last or next to last at the Big Ten Championships. In 2010, they finished 7th, after finishing last from 2007-09. Well, that is in the rear view. I spoke with Coach Chandler on part one of the D1CW/Big Ten Preview Podcast (Episode 31) and he addressed the differences he has seen establishing a Freestyle club to compete in the offseason and the new level of intensity in practices.
Enhanced staff. Chandler's assistants are comprised of a new and an old face. The familiar face is Chris Williams who has spent the past two seasons as the head coach at Adrian College. Prior to that stint, he spent ten years on staff in East Lansing. He has a reputation for being well liked by his wrestlers and alumni and has assisted with Team Michigan from a freestyle perspective and has a good ties with local high school coaches and wrestlers. The new face is Wynn Michalak, a Michigan native, who has been competing on the Freestyle circuit recently and will likely bring a high level of technical expertise to the Spartan room.
Hurdles: What could have been? Fair or unfair, a question that Chandler will have to be faced with is, what could have been in the coaching search, or lack thereof. We as fans and the wrestling media all expected that whenever the MSU job would eventually open up, it would attract the biggest names in assistant coaches or even current head coaches. Well it didn't happen. Hopefully for his sake and the Spartans sake, Roger can prove any of the doubters wrong.
Recruiting. In order to compete in the Big Ten title race you have to have the horses. This years incoming Freshman class was ranked #17 in the nation by D1CW. Early reports are favorable from the room. That is solid, however MSU will need to keep it up consistently and even improve on that ranking. Prior to the 2016 class, the last time the Spartans were in D1CW's top 25 recruiting classes, was all the way back in 2010 when they had the #22 class.
W/L Column. In order to win some of these in-state recruiting battles Chandler's squad will need to improve on the bottom line, the win/loss record. Last season the Spartans finished 2-14 in dual action and lost to all three of the other DI schools in Michigan. Central and Eastern Michigan both won by shutouts.
Minnesota: Brandon Eggum
Background: Like Roger Chandler above, Brandon Eggum is no stranger to the Minnesota wrestling program. All together, this will be his 16th season on staff and his first as the interim head coach. Previously he had been the head assistant coach for the past five years.
Continuity. The Spring and Summer was a tumultuous time for the Minnesota wrestling program. J Robinson was fired in early September and recently four wrestlers (two prominent starters) were suspended until January 1st. Having Brandon Eggum assume the head coaching duties, even if on an interim basis, at least keeps some semblance of normalcy for the Gopher wrestlers. Though J Robinson is gone, all of the coaches on staff and support members all wrestled for him and will likely keep similar systems to J.
Youth movement. With J's sudden departure a void came up on the staff and was filled by 4x Gopher All-American Zach Sanders. He will provide the lower weights with an excellent training partner and bring new blood into the Minnesota staff.
Hurdles: Being the next guy. In sports, it's never good to be that next guy taking over for a legendary coach. Now matter how competent, it just isn't the same. I fear that this will be the case with Eggum, as well. Even if he's a great coach, he's not J Robinson. For a wrestling related comparison look no farther than Dan Gable/Jim Zalesky.
Long term future. None of us know exactly how Minnesota AD Mark Coyle plans to handle the wrestling program. At this point in time, Brandon is the Interim Head Coach, however it wouldn't be shocking if he wanted to clean house and get a totally new staff after the season, when most of the top assistants and head coaches are more readily available. He could be satisfied with the team's performance under Eggum in 2016-17, we just don't know. Unfortunately, in the cut-throat business of recruiting, all of the Gophers rivals know about this uncertain situation and will likely exploit it to their benefit when selling themselves to possible recruits.
Oklahoma: Lou Rosselli
Background: Lou Rosselli comes to Oklahoma after ten seasons at Ohio State where he has been the associate head coach since 2008-09. Rosselli also served as a volunteer assistant coach for the US Olympic Freestyle Team in each of the last two Olympic Games. He also was the head coach for the Ohio Regional Training Center.
Consensus selection. Very rare is it when wrestling fans can come together, regardless of team affiliation, and agree on a great coaching hire. That's what happened when the Sooners announced the hiring of Lou Rosselli. Oklahoma fans, Oklahoma State fans, Ohio State fans and everyone in between, raved about his selection. Lou paid his dues for years assisting in the construction of a National Championship team at Ohio State and specifically guided an imposing group of lower weights.
Worldwide Domination: It's a safe bet that Norman, Oklahoma will become a destination spot for International Freestyle hopefuls. Rosselli has the reputation as one of the country's best Freestyle coaches, specifically with his pupil Kyle Snyder, now a World and Olympic Champion. OU will not only be a destination for wrestlers eyeing to win NCAA Titles, now it will be a home for wrestlers with world level aspirations.
Hurdles: Administration. We might be nitpicking here but there are some questions surrounding the Oklahoma athletic department. At one point in time it looked as if former Sooner Ryan Millhof would be denied a release due to the administrators. Will Rosselli be allowed to run the program his way?
Bedlam. As long as John Smith is at Oklahoma State, the Sooners will have to fight for the affection and attention of in-state fans and recruits. That is the harsh reality of Oklahoma wrestling. So far in this recruiting cycle, Lou has dipped back into Ohio with two early commitments from the senior class. The good news is that if Rosselli and crew defeat the Cowboys on a consistent basis it means that they will likely be Big 12 and NCAA title contenders.