Wrestling: High expectations
By BRANDON HURLEY
There’s no shortage of passion as you step foot into the Greene County wrestling room.
It’s noticeable in head coach Zach Beekman’s voice and as dozens of grapplers glide across the red and black mats.
Guys like Bryce Hoyle, Brock Wuebker and Clint Dennhardt will lead a solid core of veterans while underclassmen such as Will Hansen, Chance McCollum and Colby Kafer will bolster the back half of a blossoming lineup itching for competition.
Those athletes are exactly why Beekman is fired up to return a tradition-rich program to state as he enters his first year at the helm. The Rams were completely shut out of the individual state tournament for the first time in more than a decade last fall, which is why Beekman not only plans to have six guys in Des Moines this winter, but he hopes to share his passion for the sport with with his athletes and everyone surrounding the program.
“I want the community excited, I want the kids excited,” the coach said. “Anything I can do to promote the sport within the community. Our numbers have gone down and I want to build that back up.
I don’t care if you’re a first year wrestler or not, I’m going to push you as hard as anybody else. I want you to get as much out of it as you possibly can.”
Beekman, a 2008 1A state wrestling runner-up from Pocahontas, was drawn to the sport because of it’s inclusiveness. There’s something to it that can’t be matched on the gridiron or the hardwood. Success rests solely on the athlete, he said.
“The sport challenges you as an individual, both mentally and physically. There’s a different aspect you get that you don’t in a lot of team sports,” Beekman said. “You’re the only one out there. When you win it, it’s on you and when you lose it, it’s on you.”
Beekman was barely over the century mark in weight when he arrived at the high school level, which left him limited, athletic-wise. That’s how he settled on wrestling.
“I felt like I had my place on the team,” Beekman said. “I didn’t have to be the biggest or the fastest. I thought it was a sport that I could excel in and be myself at the same time.”
That character building is what pushed Beekman to become a coach. He’s spent the past six years within the Greene County athletic department, including three winters as the middle school head coach. He’ll take-over for the successful Mark Sawhill, who stepped down following last season’s second-place HOIC tournament run.
“I’ve learned a lot through the sport of wrestling, not just the sport but life in general,” Beekman said. “If (kids) become a better person because of it, then I’ve done a good job.”
Beekman will look to lean on his veterans as a new season of Ram wrestling gets underway. A chance to be among the Heart of Iowa Conference’s elite yet again isn’t far out of reach, the coach feels.
“There’s a lot of talent (here), there are a lot of hard-working kids on this team. I don’t want to see that go to waste,” Beekman said. “Guys that have been in this wrestling program. Those are guys that you have lead, and if they are excited about it then other kids are excited.”
Beekman wants his guys to score points, and often. Fans won’t see many grind-it-out matches, the new head coach wants his athletes to go out and secure victories by attacking. Maybe they can surprise an opponent or two along the way.
“I want to be very, very aggressive in our attack. We don’t necessarily have to be super technical wrestlers,” Beekman said. “If you are willing to work hard and know a few moves, great. If you are able to master those moves, even better.
We don’t have to be funky wrestlers, we don’t have to be big-leggers, if we stick to the basics and work our tails off, those are the ones I feel are the most successful when it comes down to it.”
Bringing some of the younger guys up to speed will be key this winter, Beekman said, which is why he’s pushed weightlifting across the board.
“Working hard. If you want to get guys to state, there’s a certain mentality that you need to have,” the coach said. “Not taking a break during matches, not taking a backseat to anybody. Respecting your opponents no matter what their name is or their record.”
The 2019 state tournament is the goal, while Beekman has set the bar at 10 district qualifiers. To achieve that, the Rams must stay dedicated to their craft, Beekman said. The most deserving grappler will likely rise to the top.
“It doesn’t matter if you’ve wrestled JV or varsity all year, when it comes down to Feb. 2 (sectionals), it’s whoever the best guy is at that moment,” Beekman said. “It doesn’t matter how many wins you have, how many losses or pins, if you can make it happen on that day, you’ll qualify for districts.
That’s what it comes down to, are you the best?”
Greene County opened its season Tuesday (Nov. 27) at home against Van Meter and Ogden. Greene County’s next home meet will be held Jan. 15.
The Rams will head to Ida Grove for 2A sectionals Feb. 2, where they’ll square off against Atlantic, Harlan, Kuemper, OA-BCIG and Sergeant Bluff-Luton.
Districts will be the following Saturday, Feb. 9 in Harlan. The 2019 traditional state tournament is set for Feb. 14-16 in Des Moines.