Every Tuesday night, a group of CSU students leave their sweat on a green mat emblazoned with the Ram head logo in the north end of the Glenn Morris Field House.
CSU’s club wrestling team has resumed training for the 2015-16 season. For now, head coach Kendall DeJonge is taking it easy on the young men and women. He wants the returning wrestlers to shake off any rust while allowing new members to get acclimated.
“We don’t require everyone to compete,” DeJonge said. “We do encourage them if they’re interested, but it’s totally optional.”
CSU students can get a taste for the sport and decide if they would like to get involved when the club will host the CSU Intramural Wrestling Tournament Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Glenn Morris Field House. The tournament is open not just to students, but to almost all CSU Rec Center members. The deadline for registration is Wednesday.
Soon after the IM tournament though, training sessions will go up a notch in both frequency and intensity.
“We crank it up when we get into the season,” DeJonge said. “Right now, it’s pretty chill the first couple of practices. … But once everyone is back in good shape, we try to take it up.”
The season officially begins Nov. 6-7 with a tournament at Wayne State College in Wayne, Nebraska. The team hosts its first home meet, the CSU Open, Nov. 14 in Fort Collins.
CSU competes in the Great Plains Conference of the National Club Wrestling Association. The NCWA Great Plains Conference National Qualifiers take place Feb. 27 and will take place in Fort Collins.
While conditioning is essential, DeJonge said he and assistant coach Barry Bernstein really try to put the emphasis on technique. If competitors really want to push themselves, they can keep working on their strength and conditioning on their own time.
After DeJonge calls practice, he invites some of the more experienced wrestlers to go for a run over the weekend. It’s a club, so there is no actual obligation. But the coaches do aim to foster an atmosphere that will make wrestlers comfortable going to them for advice off the mat as well.
“About once a month, some of us will go over to (Coach Bernstein’s) house for dinner,” junior Mike Brungardt said. “Barry and his wife are great cooks, so they’ll make us dinner and we’ll watch a Big 10 wrestling match together.”
The CSU team is hoping to build on the success it had last season when four wrestlers – Trevor Encinias, Z.Z. BenQadi, Andrew Gilles and Mike Brungardt – qualified for NCWA Nationals.
It would seem that for Brungardt, an electrical engineering major and mathematics minor, training three nights a week (and on his own outside of practice) could make it difficult to juggle school and relationships. But he says it hasn’t been a problem at all.
“It’s structure,” Brungardt said. “School was actually the toughest before I joined the wrestling team and started competing.”
Mitch LeRoy, who qualified for Nationals in 2013 and also serves as the club’s president, agrees with Brungardt. The two met through the wrestling team. Now they are roommates, and work out together on days the team does not practice.
“The bond is we spend hours wrestling, grappling, working out and pushing each other every week,” LeRoy said of the club. “It just becomes a mutual understanding of helping each other succeed in whatever aspect. We push each other academically. We’re here because we want to wrestle, but we’re really here for our degrees.”
LeRoy and Brungardt hope that the IM tournament brings out some new wrestlers to the squad this year, no matter their wrestling background or whether they plan to compete. Most come in with some sort of wrestling background, but experience is not required. Anyone who joins and gives their best effort can reap the program’s benefits.
“If I’m down, not having a good day in school or whatever it is, I can clear my mind when I come here,” Brungardt said of practice. “It’s more than just a wrestling club. We’re a family.”
More information on the CSU club wrestling team and the CSU IM Wrestling Tournament can be found on the team’s Facebook page.
Collegian Sports Editor Emmett McCarthy can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @emccarthy22.