CEDAR RAPIDS – The Coe wrestling team is undefeated and has wrestled well in tournament competition.
It would be hard to tell the Kohawks have two All-Americans on the shelf and two more starters returning from surgery wrestling last season.
Fourth-ranked Coe has relied on some new faces, including a few freshmen, to continue its success that led to a third-place finish at the 2012 NCAA Division III Championships and its fifth consecutive top-five performance.
Coe Coach John Oostendorp has attempted to create an atmosphere where any Kohawk can step in and win.
“It’s what makes you feel good because you know your program is creating that type of environment where you expect to succeed,” Oostendorp said. “It’s not something that automatically happens. It’s something you instill in your program and I think our athletes embrace that. Our assistant coaches hammer it home for them.”
Sixth-ranked 125-pounder Jimmy Gotto has missed time due to injury, and Scott King hasn’t seen action since having shoulder surgery in the offseason. Both placed sixth at last season’s national tournament. Chris LeClere, the 141-pound starter, had offseason surgery, and fourth-ranked heavyweight Alex Burkle is rebounding from suffering a torn knee ligament in the Iowa Conference Championship match that forced him to miss the NCAA tournament.
The potential existed to be strong, despite the injuries.
“We felt like we had a recruiting class with a lot of talent and some high accolades,” Oostendorp said. “Until you get them ina competition, you really don’t know what you’re going to see. We knew we’d need to rely on some new faces in the lineup, whether they were freshmen or returners.”
The boost came almost immediately. Freshman McThomas Sewara stepped at 165 pounds and knocked off University of Wisconsin-La Crosse’s Kevin O’Brien, who was ranked fourth at the time, in the Kohawks 16-15 opening-dual win over the No. 6 Eagles. Sewara is currently ranked eighth with a 14-4 record.
Former Alburnett three-time state champion Tyler Shulista has made an impact already in his first season. In his first dual, he scored a major decision at 133 pounds in Coe’s convincing win at Buena Vista.
Freshman Jared Parvinmehr has filled in for Gotto at 125, and has won 10 straight matches, improving to 15-2. He captured the Kohawks’ only title at the Simpson Invitational on Saturday. He topped Douglas Allembaugh, of NCAA Division II Central Missouri, in the finals.
“He was down 5-0 to start,” Oostendorp said. “He battled his way back to win 10-7.
Those are the things you like to see.”
The first year of college wrestling can be overwhelming. This group has handled it well, according to Oostendorp. The toughest part of the transition could be the rigors of daily training, transitioning from being one of the most talented wrestlers on a high school team to joining a roster of high-level competitors.
“Maybe the biggest part isn’t the competition, but the day-to-day grind, wrestling guys in the room,” Oostendorp said. “The are filled with those top kids from every high school program and you have kids who have been in a college program two, three or four years.
“A big part is keeping their confidence up and making sure they continue to keep that fight they came in with when they start having some tough days.”
Oostendorp said he is excited to see the gains the entire team can make during an upcoming training phase. He said he feels good about where the team will be down the stretch of this season.
“I think we can bring it all together and make a strong run the second part of the year,” Oostendorp said. “We’ve had some close duals this first part, but I think that we’re close to bringing things together here.”
Coe (4-0) hosts 17th-ranked University of Dubuque (2-1) on Saturday at Eby Fieldhouse, starting at 7 p.m.