MEQUON, Wis. – After two-plus weeks of practice, the wrestlers at Concordia Wisconsin are eager to get on the mat and compete against someone other than a teammate. The Falcons begin the 2019-20 season on Saturday at the Millikin Open starting at 9:30 am.
Head coach Kevin Koch enters his third year at the helm and brings a different expectation to the program this year, which is all about building chemistry and getting the men on the roster to buy into this year's motto of All In, bring the H.E.A.T. (heart, effort, attitude, together).
"Year one was buy-in, year two was numbers and year three is chemistry," Koch stated. "If you do those things then we will do well. We aren't going to judge or season by wins and losses because we are really young, but if everyone is all in and we bring the H.E.A.T. in the classroom, lifting sessions, practices and competitions we are setting our setting ourselves up for the future."
This year's roster features a youthful exuberance, with 14 of the 25 wrestlers listed as a freshman. Adding in the seven sophomores and 84 percent of the roster is underclassmen. While that could be viewed as a bad thing because of inexperience, Koch is seeing it differently because his seniors Alex Montbriand and Ramiro Vasquez, along with Merrick O'Donnell get to showcase their leadership abilities.
"You don't have bad teams, you have bad leaders," Koch explained. "You can't do it yourself and you need someone to plow the way. You need someone to lead by example and someone to say something when something needs to be said. Ramiro leads by example with his work ethic, while Alex and Merrick have set the leadership standard for this team vocally. I have given the expectations to the team and those guys have kept peer and team accountability without me asking at the utmost premium. They have sent the message that this is where we want to go and who we want to be."
Concordia Wisconsin has continued on an upward trend since Koch took over prior to the 2017-18 season when he inherited a roster of just 10 wrestlers. Now with 25 on the roster the competition level at practice has increased and the accountability across all levels – academics, weight room sessions, practices and soon to be competitions – has improved.
"The first couple of weeks we were just trying to see who could hack it and we were pushing them as hard as we could," Koch expressed. "Now we are just working on technique because we are young. We are ready for the Millikin Open because we want to show how hard we have been working. The main goal is February and a CCIW title, along with qualifying for Nationals, and that is what we are working towards. This first competition will help us figure out where we are at and where we need to go."
The physical side of wrestling gets the most attention, but the Falcons are working hard to be the most complete student-athlete possible day-in and day-out behind their All-In, bring the H.E.A.T. motto.
"Academically we are doing really well," said Koch with a smile. "We had 40 As and 28 Bs throughout our team at the mid-point of the semester. Our guys are buying into the expectation of being accountable and bringing the H.E.A.T. every day in everything we do. From my perspective, that is awesome."