Every time the MSU wrestling team hits the mat, the work they’ve put in all season is on display, but they’re not the only people watching their hard work pay off.
Head coach Tom Minkel and the rest of the coaching staff work just as hard at getting the wrestlers in competition form.
“My role is to make sure that we cover the areas that we need to cover,” Minkel said. “I organize and lay out every practice every morning, and I send it to my coaching staff. They have roles to play within the structure of the practice.”
Every Monday, he said the staff meets to discuss any issues on the team and they finish the meeting by talking about specific guys and what they need to work on throughout the week.
Minkel said he deals with the administrative aspects and leaves much of the personal training to his assistants.
“I watch a lot of video the day after a dual,” he said. “In this part of the season, our primary focus is those kids that are in the lineup … My staff spends a lot more one-on-one than I do because I’m responsible for the whole.”
Associate Head Coach Roger Chandler has been with the Spartans for 15 years, and had an impressive career at Indiana.
He finished as high as second at the NCAA Championships at 142 pounds and was Big Ten Champion in 1997.
He said he uses that experience in how he coaches MSU.
“The biggest thing about me or (assistant) coach (Chris) Williams or (volunteer assistant) coach (Samuel) Wendland, is we’ve all had success at the national level, so we know what it means to wrestle at the top,” Chandler said. “A lot of times, just through that competitive atmosphere, we’re able to parlay that into practice or even a live situation in the wrestling room.”
Chandler said the best way to teach wrestling isn’t by watching others through talk or video, but by actually wrestling with the athlete.
“I do it on a pretty regular basis,” he said. “I’m still young enough where I can still compete with these guys.”
The matches between the coaches and the wrestlers can get competitive.
Senior 149-pounder Dan Osterman said the bragging rights that come with beating a coach are well worth the fight.
“I wrestle with Chris and Roger all the time,” Osterman said. “It gives you that extra incentive to work hard.”
Though he hasn’t wrestled against Minkel in years, Osterman said his most difficult opponent is Chandler because of their different styles, and Williams is beatable.
“I’ve wrestled Chris and worked out with Chris my whole life,” Osterman said. “I’m bigger than him now, so we’ll say it’s that. It’s still tough, but definitely Roger (is more difficult).”
Chandler said the experience he’s gained having Minkel as a mentor has been great from both a wrestling and an administrative standpoint, and he has head coaching aspirations.
“The goal is to, when coach Minkel decides to retire, I’d like to be the next coach here at Michigan State,” Chandler said. “If that opportunity presents itself, I’m definitely going to look very seriously at that.”