Here’s a recap of how the season went for each team that had a new head coach in 2006-2007. Obviously, these teams were built mostly by the previous coach, or, in two cases, the coach before that.
Centenary – John Garriques, preceded by Douglas Fink – Garriques came from New Jersey high school power Philipsburg to take over a Centenary program that had finished 3-9 the previous year. 2005 national qualifier Mike Gummerson was the top returning athlete, and he again qualified for the NCAA tournament in 2007, finishing 1-2. Centenary improved to 6-6-1 in 2006-2007 and returns Gummerson and all but one other wrestler for 2007-2008.
North Central College – Kevin Bratland, preceded by Eric Keller – Bratland come from Ohio Northern and took over a team with two returning All-Americans, but the potential for turmoil existed, as Keller himself had only been at North Central for one season before returning to Wartburg. Nevertheless, a strong freshman class coupled with repeat performances by the returnees led to a top ten finish in 2007 with four national qualifiers and two 3rd place individuals. With three returning qualifiers, 2007-2008 looks promising.
University of Scranton – Al Russomano, preceded by Jim Morgan – Moving up from Scranton High School, Russomano took the reigns from Jim Morgan, who was at Scranton for just 2005-2006, compiling a 2-12 record. The 2006-2007 Scranton team finished 0-7, but did advance 149 lb. senior Donnell Young as a wildcard selection to the NCAA tournament where he went 1-2. For 2007-2008, the team returns everyone except Young.
Trinity – Keith Poloskey, preceded by Michael Gaydos – Springfield graduate Poloskey stepped up from his assistant role to lead Trinity in 2006-2007. The team finished 9-16-1 in 2005-2006, and was hit hard by graduation, including All-American heavyweight Mike Blair. In 2006-2007 Trinity struggled to a 1-24-1 record with a young team that will return all but one wrestler this coming year.
Waynesburg – Charlie Heard, preceded by Dave Thomas – Waynesburg finished 1-13 in 2005-2006, but former Olympic alternate Heard stepped in from Belle Vernon High School for the 2006-2007 season. Taking to the mats with his young team, Waynesburg finished 1-10 with a team dominated by freshmen. Two wrestlers placed in the Midwest Regional, but the entire team returns for 2007-2008.
UW-La Crosse – Dave Malecek, preceded by Nate Skaar – Malecek came from national power Wartburg to take over the LAX program that had finished 2nd at the 2006 NCAA tournament and had seven All-Americans. He was coming to a team with designs on a national title in 2007. While LAX failed to win, they did finish third and feature NCAA champion Josh Chelf. While they lost some firepower to graduation, the 2007-2008 team will return four national qualifiers, including Chelf.
As you can see, the type of season a new coach has depends almost entirely on the work of the previous coaches. While a new coach could probably mess things up in a year, it would be hard to see dramatic improvement in a coach’s first year. It almost makes the Rookie Coach of the Year an award for the previous coach. Watch these coaches for the next four or five years before making any judgments about their success or lack thereof.