Building of a program
WHEELING – It’s been nearly nine months since Sean Doyle was introduced as the first wrestling coach in Wheeling Jesuit University history.
For Doyle, those nine months have felt like an absolute whirlwind.
Building the program from the ground up has been exciting and challenging all rolled into one for the 1997 Buckeye Local graduate.
“The benefits are that you’re not taking over anything that’s had some problems or issues and you’re able to do things that you prioritize,” Doyle said. “It’s been really challenging to do this in about a six-month window. There are still a thousand things I’d like to do, but I’ve got to prioritize and manage my time most effectively.”
First and foremost, Doyle had to build a roster for a season that will begin in early November.
Doyle, who resigned his post as Wheeling Park wrestling coach in November, was able to hit the ground running once he passed his mandatory NCAA recruiting test right after the first of the year.
“Recruiting basically ends in April and May, so basically we had four or five months to contact kids, set them up for visits, work through the recruiting process and sign them, so that was the toughest part,” Doyle said. “A big benefit is we’ll be able to build relationships earlier with kids now in the recruiting process and be a little more thorough in our process of identifying guys.”
The Cardinals have 30 wrestlers on their roster, 26 of whom are true freshmen. There are four sophomore transfers on the squad.
Nine of the Cardinals are Ohio Valley Athletic Conference products. Included is Martins Ferry’s Damon Outward.
“I think it would be wonderful to sustain a roster of between 40 and 45 guys,” Doyle said. “You’re able to build a program that way. You build an alumni base, a fanbase and depth in your room. Next year, we’ll be able to shrink our class and be more selective.”
The Wheeling Jesuit students return to classes later this month, but Doyle’s grapplers have been working toward the season all summer.
“We gave our guys a 12-week training program at the end of May, so they’ve been working through that,” Doyle said. “Strength is such a huge part of transitioning from high school because you’re going to be facing 22 and 23 year old men. The majority of these guys are going to be in a starting lineup when they’re not necessarily prepared physically.”
Once the wrestlers return, they’ll have about 10 days to settle in, adjust to their classes and then will begin open mats, off-season conditioning and training.
“We went on a team trip (during the summer), so that should help ease the process of being away from home for the first time because these guys have already started to build relationships and form a family,” Doyle said. “It was such a great trip because you really learn a lot about guys when you’re with them 24 hours a day for three days.”
Doyle’s first practice as the Cardinals’ head coach is Oct. 10 and the season begins on Nov. 2 at the Citadel Open. Their first home dual is slated for Nov. 8 against Alma College.
“We’ve got some open tournaments and dual meets, but we hit the tougher parts of our schedule in the middle of December,” Doyle said. “Everything’s been new for me in this process, but once October hits, I’ve been in the wrestling room basically my whole life, so that’ll be the easy part.”
The Cardinals will tangle with West Liberty University at WesBanco Arena on Saturday, Jan. 18 at 10 a.m. prior to the semifinals of the OVAC Wrestling Tournament.
“The guys are really excited to be the pioneers of this program and leave their mark,” Doyle said. “Being the first all-American or national champion is the challenge for our kids. We found kids who are so motivated and wanted to take on the challenge of starting something new.”
The work on the Cardinals’ wrestling room has been progressing well. A room on the second floor of the McDonough Center has been converted to a wrestling room. Resilite worked for about a week late last month installing wall pads and the mats will be laid in a few weeks.
“I requested the room we’re going to be in the very first time we walked the facility,” Doyle said. “Our physical therapy department moved because of its growth and Danny (Sancomb) was fully supportive of us to get this room. Everything’s in place.”
Doyle’s lone assistant will be a graduate assistant.
“At the end of the season, I want people to be saying, ‘man, this was our best decision ever to add wrestling,'” Doyle said. “That’s going to come from our guys being respectful, working hard, leading on campus and living the right way.”
Staskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org