Former Hawkeye Borschel settles into coaches' chair with Northwestern

Published: January 30 2014 | 4:06 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 2:55 am in

Jay Borschel has settled in to his coaching career.

In his second year on the Northwestern staff, he has carved a niche for himself with the Wildcats program. He had made the transition from private sector to college wrestling coach.

“I feel good with what we’re doing here,” Borschel said. “We continue to move along and see where we can go. We have a good recruiting class this next year, so it’s something to look forward to and make progress in the near future.”

The next challenge is a familiar foe. Borschel was an NCAA champion and two-time All-American for University of Iowa Coach Tom Brands and the Hawkeyes, who travel to No. 19 Northwestern on Friday for a Big Tenonference dual at Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston, Ill.

Iowa is 11-2 overall and 4-1 in the Big Ten. Northwestern is 6-5 with a 1-5 mark in the conference.

Borschel attended the NCAA Championships in St. Louis, Mo., when the desire to return to the sport motivated him to reach out for an opportunity. He contacted Brands, who help him connect with Northwestern and Coach Drew Pariano.

“Good for him for pursuing what he wants to do and a lot of people don’t have the guts to do that,” Brands said. “He was in a job where he had potential to make good money for his future and set him up. If you’re not happy, change gears after a year or two is hard to do and he did it.”

Coaching seemed like a good fit to Borschel, who observed his own coaches when he was going through the process and learned from their example. He has enjoyed the switch.

“I knew what to expect,” said Borschel, whose wife, Jillian, delivered their first son, Milo, the night before the 2013 NCAA Championships. “I wasn’t naïve to what was going to occur.”

Borschel has always demonstrated a welcoming attitude that relates well with various people. He had those traits that transfer to the coaching profession, trying to motivate and push wrestlers to improve.

“He’s confident and not selfish,” said Brands, noting Borschel has a tendency to exhibit some light-hearted goofiness. “He has a way to get to guys with his personality.”

Brands said he originally had encouraged Borschel to return to coaching, while resurrecting his competitive career. He said that Borschel had plenty of potential as an international freestyle competitor, but understands why he wanted to be a coach first and foremost.

Borschel, who was not against the idea of wrestling at first, has competed in some exhibitions as a coach. Working out with wrestlers regularly allows him to maintain his timing and prevent rust, but he doesn’t have the time to devote to a full-time career.

“I’m putting all my time into these guys here,” Borschel said. “They are ones I’m focused on.”

He has competed in some wrestling events, including the AGON Wrestling event at the Rio in Las Vegas, Nev., in October. He beat Aaron Simpson, 11-3, at 185.

“It was fun,” Borschel said. “I had a good time.”

He has had a great time in his new role. He has helped develop talent in the Wildcats room. Lee Munster (174), Alex Polizzi (197) and heavyweight Mike McMullan have been some of the wrestlers he has worked with in the room. All three are NCAA qualifiers and McMullan was the NCAA runner-up at heavyweight last year.

McMullan, ranked fifth with a 7-1 record, will face top-ranked Bobby Telford (16-1). Fifteenth-ranked Polizzi (16-6) is also expected to have a tough bout with No. 13 Nathan Burak (9-3). Borschel also works with seventh-ranked Pierce Harger (17-4), who will take on No. 4 Nick Moore (15-2) at 165.

The rewards don’t revolve around wins and losses for Borschel.

“It’s more about the daily work,” Borschel said. “It’s the way they respond and take in what you’re telling them and apply it.

“It’s the little growth moments that they’ll have throughout the year.”

Borschel said he has maintained a good relationship with the Hawkeyes coaching staff. Just like being a competitor on the mat, coaches don’t like to lose and they can get caught up in the heat of the moment. So, when the dual starts they might be distant.

“We’re all cordial,” Borschel said. “Sometimes the antics that go on between coaches and what might seem like animosity are all part of the show. A lot of it is we’re worked up and caught up with what is going on on the mat.”

Before the dual could be another story. Borschel may have a surprise or two for his old coaches and teammates. When he was first hired, he joked about taking Brands’ chair before the dual. Time will tell whether he has something in the works.

“Of course, I’m going to razz Tom,” Borschel said. “Maybe I’ll get him worked up before the meet. He doesn’t know, but maybe I’ll have something up my sleeve.”

Brands is prepared for any curveball Borschel might throw, including the removal of his chair from the corner.

“I would like to see him try, first of all,” Brands said. “Second of all, he should come over and sit on our side.”

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