PHS mat program headed in right direction

by Greg Ceilley of The Review staff

BEN CHAPMAN, Plymouth head wrestling coach, talks strategy with freshman Josh Koll during the Brookfield Central Invitational Jan. 16. – Photo by Amy Schmidt BEN CHAPMAN, Plymouth head wrestling coach, talks strategy with freshman Josh Koll during the Brookfield Central Invitational Jan. 16. – Photo by Amy Schmidt PLYMOUTH – Ben Chapman, a former state wrestling champion at Plymouth High School, has embraced the challenge of building his alma mater’s wrestling program into a successful one again.

Chapman, in his second season as the head wrestling coach at Plymouth High, feels the program is headed in the right direction. Plymouth, which has a history of strong wrestling, has had lean years recently due to low numbers and inexperience but the program is on the upswing, bolstered by improving numbers and a promising crop of underclassmen.

“I enjoy a good challenge, and taking over here I knew it would be tough,” said Chapman.

“I knew the numbers weren’t what I wanted them to be but I knew if we could get a good, solid core of guys to stick together that we could definitely do some big things.

“The guys are really pushing themselves to get better each day. All of the guys are improving.”

The team has 16 members this season, compared with 15 last year, and Chapman hopes the total will continue to increase in the future.

“Our goals [for the program] are to get back to where we were when I was in high school and have guys get to state consistently every year. Between this year, next year and the year after, we should have a good number of guys qualifying for state and hopefully having guys placing at state,” said an optimistic Chapman.

Chapman was a state champion in 2004 as a senior. He wrestled one season at UW-Madison coming out of high school. He then took a year off after sustaining injuries while competing at UW. Chapman transferred to Lakeland College near Sheboygan where he won three conference titles in 2007, 2009 and 2010.

“Plymouth is a great community and did a lot for me when I was growing up. I thought this would be a great place to take advantage of the good wrestling history,” he said.

“I know the ability around the area and what we can have as a team. I’ve really emphasized a wrestling family. The parents and younger kids are really embracing the wrestling community and wrestling culture.”

Chapman was the head coach at Sheboygan North High School last season and an assistant at North the previous two years.

“Overall, we’re not where we want to be yet but we’re definitely taking steps in the right direction and getting the foundation laid and getting the basics down,” said Chapman.

“It takes a little while to get your style, mindset and coaching philosophy across to the guys and have them buy into that.”

The Panthers have shown marked improvement over last season, having won nearly twice as many dual meets thus far and being more competitive in tournaments.

“We’re still going through some of the growing pains. With such a young team and only one senior and two juniors and the rest freshmen and sophomores, it’s definitely going to take a little time to understand [more about high school wrestling],” Chapman pointed out.

“Developing your technique and being comfortable on the mat come with time. We’re focusing on the basics and kind of pushing the pace and being in great shape and great position, and being able to do that in wrestling really allows you to start developing your technique and understand scrambling which comes with time.

“From where we were last year to this year and from the beginning of this season to this point in the season, I’ve been impressed with what these young guys have been able to do.”

“Go six hard” is Chapman’s key message to his squad, referring to a full match which consists of six minutes (three two-minute periods).

“With being a young team, one of the main things we’ve emphasized is to go hard a full six minutes and push the pace,” said Chapman who emphasizes conditioning.

“The reasoning behind that is that with such a young team and a lot of guys being inexperienced, we’re not going to be the most technically sound and know a lot of moves out there. But sometimes you don’t need that if you have good technique, the basics and staying in the right stance and understanding the fundamentals and being able to wrestle hard for a full six minutes. That’s going to win you a lot of matches and by doing that [wrestling hard for six minutes], that’s where you start to learn the technique.

He said in duals this season, his wrestlers have won matches late in the third period because they wrestled hard the whole way. He said if you can understand that and push through the exhaustion, the technique will come.

“I definitely think the program is headed in the right direction,” said Panther junior 152-pounder Erik Ohman, a varsity wrestler.

“The coaches are doing an awesome job in making us work hard. We all want to work hard for them and us.

“He’s big on pushing the pace and constantly attacking the opponents. We push the pace in the wrestling room and it pays off on the mat,” said Ohman.

Chapman has been very pleased with the support he has received from the community and the parents of wrestlers at the youth, middle school and high school levels.

“Having parents helping out [coaching and other volunteer duties] with the youth program – that’s where it starts. To build a high school program you need a good youth program and middle school program, and they kind of feed into the high school program,” said Chapman.

“You need that good base and nucleus where you have guys come up through the youth program and stay together throughout middle school.

“When they get to high school they already have the fundamentals in place. From there, you polish that and teach them how to be successful at a higher level.

“The younger kids hear from the older guys that we’re having fun and we’re doing well and kids come out [for high school wrestling],” said Chapman,

“I work closely with the youth program and middle school program on multiple levels. I work with the head coaches of each program to make sure they are teaching the same type of technique that we show at the high school level. This way we can focus on fine-tuning it when they get to high school.”

As far as getting more wrestling participants, Chapman said it helps a lot when parents and others take youths to weekend tournaments and then those wrestlers pull in their friends to try the sport and then it grows from there.

Chapman said the numbers in the youth and middle school programs are moving in the right direction

“I also encourage the younger athletes to try wrestling and I talk about how it can benefit them in other sports. I advise them to stick with it, even if they struggle in the beginning, because the payoff will come with hard work,” Chapman pointed out.

“I talk to other kids in the high school that may have never wrestled, or maybe wrestled a year or two when they were younger. I find kids in the weight room that are not participating in a winter sport and try to talk them into giving wrestling a shot. Even if they only try for a day or two, you never know unless you try.”

Chapman said his assistant coaches, Jared Schauf and Jim Kudek, have been two key parts of the program. Schauf is a heavyweight wrestler at Lakeland. Kudek is a professor at Lakeland and coached with Chapman at Sheboygan North.

“We’re excited about the program and are getting out and promoting wrestling,” said Chapman.

“We’re stressing to the kids to take pride in what they do and that you get what you earn.”

“I want to make wrestling where you feel a part of something. It’s an individual sport when you’re on the mat but a team sports overall. You try to form relationships and bond together. You feed off the other guys in the wrestling room,” said Chapman.

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