Seven national top-10 team finishes
New Central wrestling coach Eric Van Kley has a proven record of building winners, taking a new program at Great Falls University (Mont.) and turning it into a top-10 NAIA program with 45 wrestlers in just three years. Now he's restoring Central's powerful wrestling tradition. Here he shares some of his thoughts on what Central has to offer a student-athlete who is serious about his education and his wrestling career:
Why do you feel confident wrestling will be successful at Central College?
“There are three big reasons why I think we can get things going in the right direction.
“One, the most important, is the support from administration. The support from all levels of administration at Central has been terrific for the wrestling program. Along with that, a lot of alumni are behind the program.
“Two, our support staff is incredible. When you take our trainers, our strength and conditioning coaches and our admission staff and all the help they have given us with recruiting, it has all been very instrumental.
“Three, recruiting. Recruiting has been going great this year. We have things going in the right direction and look to bring in a great class next year and really get the ball rolling.”
Why should a top wrestler choose to be a part of the Central College wrestling program?
“I think the biggest reason is because of the opportunity to compete right away. We have got the train heading in the right direction and the right people on it. Different than other Iowa Conference schools, when you come to Central you can compete right away and get a lot of mat time.”
What type of student athlete are you looking to be a member of the Central College wrestling team?
“Every (wrestler) we recruit, we look for three things: extremely high character, great work ethic and self-discipline. If they bring those qualities to Central College they are going to be a terrific student and do very well in our wrestling program.”
What should a student athlete expect after wrestling four years at Central College?
“More than anything, they are going to get the opportunity to be the best they can be in all areas. Socially, academically and athletically we are going to push them and motivate them and give them every tool in the world to be the best they can absolutely be. I think that is exciting on the one end; on the other side, the memories that go with that, the relationships they build and have at Central are second to none. There will be some great accomplishments and some great relationships built.
What should a wrestler expect for practices and off-season training?
“In all of our practices we really strive for quality of time, not quantity. Whether they are in the wrestling room or with (Central College Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Jake) Anderson in the strength program, intensity is going to be extremely high. We are going to expect an extremely high work ethic in all things and have a great experience with it. We are not going to have three-hour practices where things drag out and get boring. It is going to short and crisp and extremely high intensity and work level.
“Our off-season program will be a four-day a week strength and condition program with Coach Anderson and his staff. The unique thing with that is I feel guys are working harder than they have ever worked before but, at the same time, having fun with it. That is a nice balance because they are not on the mat all the time, they are working hard, getting stronger, getting better but, at the same time, having a lot of fun with it.”
What type of a coach do you view yourself as?
“I think I am a very enthusiastic coach. Good or bad, our guys usually know where they stand with me. I try keep things very positive because I think guys respond better to positive coaching than always being negative and criticizing. I try to portray (excitement) and I think our program is starting to develop a lot of excitement about wrestling and training and getting better all the time. I think those are some things that guys who wrestle for me would see.
Who do you admire and look to emulate?
“My head coach at Minn. State-Mankato (Jim Makovsky) was extremely influential in my life. The thing that I try to model myself after with him is he was a tough and very demanding coach but he cared about us immensely. That is something I try to portray to our guys. I am going to push them extremely and make sure they are working at their maximum ability level, but, at the same, both as a wrestler and more importantly as a person, I care about them a lot and making sure they are having great experience.
How important has assistant coach Jason Zastrow and the rest of
your staff been in helping develop the Central College wrestling program?
“All of our staff members are absolutely critical to what we are doing. I think most of the time I get far too much credit. They do so many little things on a daily basis. Coach Zastrow puts in an enormous amount of time both in recruiting and time in the (wrestling) room helping the guys out and brings a lot of experience with what he learned in his college experience. Coach Diehl is so positive with our guys and sets a great example for them and does a great job training with them everyday. Coach Anderson and his staff (are the) other half of the equation with the strength and conditioning side of things. I think they are an extension of everything we preach in the room. I can’t give enough credit to our admission staff with helping with recruiting and selling all the positive things here at Central.
What are your goals for the Central College wrestling program in the near future?
“I think, more than anything, getting a roomful of guys that are working at an extremely high level and learning to compete with the better teams in our conference and the country. We have the luxury of, if we are competing well in our conference, we are going to be able to compete well at the national level because of how challenging our conference is. This year our goal was to learn how to work hard. Our goal the next couple of years is to learn to compete at a high level. Academic-wise, we want to keep doing better and better there. We have lofty goals as far as our academic performance. Our guys are learning to compete in the classroom and do better and better there. We have a lot of high goals with a lot of guys in a lot of areas, but I think we have the right guys to do it with.