The Augustana wrestling team is just under a month away from their first meet, and the Vikings are ecstatic to make a change from recent years.
Senior Matt Sears said this year can be a turning point for the team.
“Looking at the past few years, we have struggled,” Sears said. “But this upcoming year can be special. A lot of guys are working harder than they have been, and I can see the potential in the room.”
The Vikings are now in full swing as of two weeks ago, but they have been conditioning since the school year started.
This past week the Vikings thought they had to go a few days without their head coach, Eric Juergens. Juergens had to leave Tuesday morning for the birth of his child, but was back the day after, according to Sears.
“I tell you what, he was there the day after his kid was born,” Sears said. “I’ve never seen a more passionate coach. He can’t get out of the (wrestling) room. Wrestling is in his blood. He has heart, during meets. He points to himself and says ‘show me some heart.’ It’s the biggest thing he preaches,” said Sears.
Juergens and company will have the challenge of filling a few big roles after losing some seniors to graduation. In particular one of the biggest challenges will be replacing the team’s MVP, Jimmy Panozzo.Sears isn’t too worried about losing many of his former teammates to graduation. and feels confident in the team’s current roster.
“I think we have already filled those vacant spots,” Sears said. ”We have a lot of leaders coming back. Having all these leaders return allows them to be comfortable in their roles.”
The Vikings will look to reload not only with experienced leaders from last year’s team, but also youth from a strong recruiting class.
Sears, who won last year’s Sacrifice Award as a junior, likes what he sees from the freshmen.
“These kids look hungry, they are pushing everyone in the room to be better, and I think that some of them can crack the lineup this season, said Sears.”
Along with Sears, the Vikings will return junior Chris Giatras, who earned the team’s hardest worker award, and junior Trace Timmons, who won the teams most improved honor.
The Vikings first meet will be on Nov. 5 at the Wisconsion-Platteville Super 8 Invitational in Platteville, Wisconsin.