Wrestling Team Has High Expectations
Athletics - posted on 11/14/2005
When Pete Rogers took over the Lakeland College wrestling program, he had four wrestlers heading into the 2001-02 season, all seniors.
Boy how things have changed.
Rogers, now entering his fifth season as head coach, has steadily built the program up, and there is an air of anticipation with this year's group.
"I am looking forward to No. 1 having seniors on the team for the first time since my first year," said Rogers. "It will be nice to have senior leadership, which is something that has been lacking in the program the last four years.
"I'm real excited to have a group of guys that are going to lead this team to where it needs to go. Lee Sparks (197 pounds, Otsego, Mich./Otsego), Tim Vallier (174 pounds, Gladstone, Mich./Gladstone) and Matt Priemesberger (149 pounds, Appleton/Appleton East) - they stuck with this program when it was at the bottom and they stuck with it through their collegiate career. I am really appreciative of that, and I think it will help us in the future."
Joining the seniors is its largest incoming class in the Pete Rogers era with 12 freshmen, including five from state high school powerhouse Wrightstown. The roster of newcomers is loaded with talent, as they boast 16 athletes who placed fifth or better at state during their high school careers.
"With the amount of tough freshman and transfers we've brought in this year, I'm excited to work with kids that are already at a high level," said Rogers. "I think them seeing success from the captains and leaders of the team will make it a lot easier for them to step into the lineup and do well."
Rogers hesitates to put extra pressure on his new wrestlers, but it's clear several freshmen have the ability to have impact right away.
Twin brothers Chris and Casey Klister (141 pounds, 133 pounds respectively, De Pere/Wrightstown) are two of the best incoming freshman. Chris finished third at state his freshman and sophomore years, before winning back-to-back state championships in his junior and senior years. Casey captured second-place finishes his sophomore and junior years before taking first place his senior season.
Mitch Nooyen (157 pounds, DePere/Wrightstown), a teammate of the Klister brothers, also won a state title his senior year. David Copp (125 pounds), hailing from Rogers' hometown of Oostburg, was a state qualifier for three years and earned a silver medal his senior season.
"As far as young guys stepping into the lineup, there are a couple of them that, if they do the right things, they will put themselves into position to go places not a lot of Lakeland wrestlers have been before," said Rogers. "I can't start naming individuals because there are so many of them that I expect, if they start putting in the time and the effort, they are going to accomplish a lot right away as freshmen."
With the program boasting 17 underclassmen, there will undoubtedly be some struggles on this year's squad due to inexperience. However, the Muskies are working to build a wrestling program that can compete not only in the Lake Michigan Conference but nationally, and Rogers feels that this class has the potential to do that.
"There is no doubt about it," Rogers said when asked about the underclassmen struggling some this season. "You wish for the best always, but there is no doubt things aren't always going to go our way, but everybody realizes that. It is a work in progress and we are building for the future, but this year hopefully we can pave some success and I think we will."
When the underclassmen do struggle, Rogers will rely on his captains and upperclassmen to help the younger guys overcome their difficulties.
"Success breeds success," said Rogers. "I have no doubts in my mind that if I have three guys that are wrestling well all the time, the rest of the team will follow. It's not a team sport by any means, because you are out there on the mat all alone, but when you see those people that you compete with every day winning every day, you naturally will bring yourself to a higher level because you want to be a part of that.
"That is where the team play comes in. Just watching other people compete well will bring you to a new level mentally, and so much of wrestling is mental to begin with."
Last season, Sparks and Vallier both finished second in their weight class at the LMC tournament. Priemesberger has been hampered by injuries so far in his career, but he is healthy this season and looking forward to making an impact.
"Matt Priemesberger has had two or three season-ending injuries in a row," said Rogers. "He has put in the time and done things in the right order to put himself in position to have a successful season this year.
"Lee Sparks had an outstanding season last year. He didn't get to finish as well as he would have liked to because he tore his hamstring, but he has competed with the best and he has beat a lot of the best people in the nation. When he gets the go ahead to wrestle (he was recovering from an injury in the preseason) he will be ready to go.
"Tim Vallier has been up and down his whole career. He'd go one week from beating a guy that is All-American status to the next week losing to a guy that he shouldn't have lost to. I think this year he will have the right mindset where he will be a little bit more consistent for us."
Rogers has challenged his wrestlers by scheduling some of the top programs in the region this season. UW-Eau Claire, Manchester, Ind. and Cornell, Iowa, are all on the schedule, as well as a trip to Las Vegas on December 19 to partake in the Desert Duals.
"The schedule is pretty consistent competition wise the whole way," said Rogers. "I schedule my competition tough. These guys have high goals for themselves, so they need to wrestle the best in order to get to the level that they want to be.
"We will wrestle a lot of the top-ranked schools, and we are going to need that going into the regional. With having the No. 1 team in the nation in our region (Augsburg, Minn.), we are going to have to wrestle with the best in the season so we can get to the point where we can qualify guys for the national tournament. We are starting off with pretty good competition, but I think it is competition that my guys can handle right now.
"Like all sports, I think if you wrestle with the best, you'll get a lot better."
The program has a goal to be one of the top programs in the region, and they have been laying the foundation for that opportunity the past four years. This season, the Muskies hope to see that hard work pay off.
Share This Story Help
Lakeland offers links to several popular social bookmarking services. These links help you share stories with other people or create bookmarks for future reference. The services are free, but they require a personal account. Click for more information on social bookmarking
<< Return to News