Budget prevents team from filling position

UW-Eau Claire wrestling team has had three different head coaches in past four years, a struggle for athletes

Story by Danielle Pahl, Multimedia Editor

Just from watching last Friday’s match against UW-Oshkosh, signs of a tight-knit UW-Eau Claire men’s wrestling team were apparent. Viewers could see the effort on the mat and support for each other.

But what they may not have seen during the match are the struggles occurring off the mat.

In the past four years, the wrestling team has had three head coaches and is still looking to fill the position permanently. Director of Athletics Scott Kilgallon said the team has the smallest budget of all 22 of the university’s sports teams. As a result, Kilgallon said it is difficult to afford a permanent head coach.

“The state hasn’t been too kind with the budget, and they put a freeze on all of that,” Kilgallon said. “It’s not a lot of money and we have been fortunate to get all these coaches together and keep the program moving forward.”

Steve Wozniak, the current interim coach, said he has been with the team for three years now, two of those serving as an assistant coach. He also said that although he is pursuing a master’s degree at UW-Stout, he can still fulfill his commitment to the team as a head coach.

“I have a huge passion for the sport and I am at a time in my life where I can take on this extra responsibility whereas some of the other coaches in the past were not at that point in their lives,” Wozniak said.

Kilgallon said Don Parker’s career coaching the team ended after 32 years due to a hunting accident. Kilgallon said the team went through a number of different coaches after the accident.

Luke Ortscheid, a 184-pound senior, said although the previous head coaches had been in the program prior to being taking the head position, it was still difficult to adjust to.

“You kind of have to start all over again,” Ortscheid said. “You have to get used to the way they run practice, you have to get used to interacting with them and the fact that some of our coaches have been around our age, that makes a different dynamic as well.”

149-pound senior Ryan Seidler said he believes becoming familiar with the expectations of each coach is difficult. He also said forming a personal relationship with them is challenging but necessary.

“Connecting on a personal level and not just as a coach is important in a sport,” Seidler said. “You will work harder for someone that you have more respect for and know on a personal level.”

Ortscheid said he believes the issue lies within the athletic department and their lack of commitment in finding a head coach.

“You can’t hold it against the new coach coming in and you can tell there is a frustration among the guys,” Ortscheid said. “What it comes down to is the athletics department not committing to finding somebody that is going to bring solidarity to the team.”

Kilgallon said in order to fill the head coach position, the wrestling program would need to receive more budget dollars and full-time employment, both of which the state controls. However, he said he does not believe it will happen in the near future.

“It’s my 10th year here and with a lack of raises, I don’t see that in the eminent future for us,” Kilgallon said. “But it is certainly something in the strategic plan to help the wrestling program move forward.”