Interview by Curt Heinrichs
With the Buckeyes hosting Virginia Tech on Sunday, I spoke with Hokie head wrestling coach Kevin Dresser to discuss the upcoming match.
Curt Heinrichs- Virginia Tech took part in the NWCA National Duals, but you had it taken to you by Cornell (shut out by Cornell 34-0). What can you take from matches like that?
Kevin Dresser- I think it gives us a better idea of what to expect at the national championships. Cornell has a lot of top 10 ranked guys. We came out on the short end of some close matches. When you lose a bunch of tight matches and some overtime matches, the score can get out of hand. We have to learn to win the close matches and we didn’t do that anywhere where we had a chance. A national top 4 program can make you look bad, and that’s how the score ended up the way it did. We have to learn to win the close matches and we have to get a little bit tougher as we go forward. That’s exactly why we go there; we go to the NWCA duals to face top competition and to get tougher before the conference and national tournaments.
CH- Taking a look at your roster, you have several wrestlers from Ohio, especially from big-time programs like Graham and St. Ed’s. Is there a conscious emphasis placed on recruiting kids from Ohio when you’re trying to fill out your team?
KD- Ohio’s a great wrestling state and we aren’t that far away. Depending on what part of the state they’re from, we’re 6 hours away or less for them. We’re going to continue to recruit in Ohio and we’ve had some success with All-Americans from Ohio (Zach Neibert and Nick Brascetta, both of St. Paris Graham High School were All-Americans a year ago). We’re going to keep hitting Ohio hard.
CH- Speaking of getting hit hard, you guys took quite a blow earlier in the year with Devin Carter going down with an injury. Lots of people expected him to make some noise this year. Are you able to discuss how he’s doing with his recovery?
KD- He’s a real long shot to return this year, but he’s a really special kid. We thought he was the guy to beat in the nation when he got hurt. He had 14 wins by bonus points in 14 matches. Any time you can put up that kind of point total, people notice. As far as his progress, a normal guy wouldn’t be ready to wrestle until May or June. Devin isn’t a normal guy. He’s making good progress. I’d say it would be a longshot that he’ll compete for us at the ACC Championships, but I never rule anything out with Devin.
CH- You’re one of the many coaches in the NCAA that have come from the Dan Gable coaching tree. If you had to boil it down, what would you say is the biggest lesson that you learned under Coach Gable?
KD- Number one, he was a great role model, especially for guys that competed in the 80’s (Dresser was an NCAA champ at Iowa under Gable in 1986) because he still got on the mat quite a bit back then. Just to see how hard that he worked and the way he lived his life impacted me. He also put together an environment that didn’t feature the most talented guys, but he had a way of finding guys that were hard workers and overachievers. That environment made that whole thing happen. When I got there as a freshman, Iowa had already won 4 national championships. He had the ball rolling and there wasn’t a whole lot of coaching that had to take place. If you just came in and did the work, you were going to figure it out. It wasn’t rocket science and it worked.
CH- When looking for guys, is there a particular trait that you look for when you say “guys that are willing to put in the work” or is that something that you have to roll the dice to find out?
KD- You try to do your homework on the front end as much as possible. We like to look for guys that aren’t afraid to be coached and aren’t afraid of hard work. There has to be a certain amount of talent there, but we really try to find those hard-working guys. We’ve found that as we continue to grow and improve our program, we’re able to be a little more selective in finding the guys that are going to give you that hard work.
CH- You wrestle the Buckeyes on Sunday. Obviously barring Carter’s injury, a match with Devin and Stieber would have been huge. From the Hokie perspective, are there any other matches that are really crucial for you to win the match?
KD- I think that on paper 125 and 133 are big for us. We have 2 true freshman that are doing a great job. We have to go in to Ohio State and compete from the start. We have an All-American at 149 in Neibert, who is a St. Paris Graham kid. Those are 3 weight classes that we need to do well in to succeed. We match up well with them. They’re not as proven as we are at 157 or 165. I know they’ve had some injuries at 174 and 184 (Mark Martin and Kenny Courts), so it’s up in the air as to who they’ll actually wrestle. We just need to wrestle our best and see how it finishes.
As previously mentioned, I’ll be in Columbus for tomorrow’s match. Be sure to check back shortly after the conclusion for a recap and whatever interviews I can snag. If the wifi connection is good, I may be posting updates to Twitter so give me a follow.
Thanks for reading and Go Bucks!