A new era is about to begin for the Buena Vista wrestling team as first-year head coach Mark Rial makes his Beaver coaching debut on Saturday, November 3, when his squad not only begins its season, but also kicks-off American Rivers Conference action by hosting Loras College in a 2:00 p.m. dual.
Rial is working to continue the rebuilding process of the program, and so far he is has been extremely happy with the work his guys have been putting in to continue pushing the team and program forward.
"Practices have been going really well," he says. "They guys are hungry to learn and work hard. We have been on the mat full-time since October 10 and have mixed in some conditioning and weight lifting practices as well during that time."
The first-year head coach will guide a roster that is made up of a mix of veteran experience but also contains several young, talented newcomers. Seniors Brad Kerkhoff and Shane Vaughan will look to lead the way in the early going as the young guys progress. Kerkhoff began his career by being named the league's Freshman of the Year and is closing in on 60 career victories. He went 21-9 a season ago, including a 6-1 conference mark. Vaughan, meanwhile, was limited to only 20 total matches a year ago due to injuries. He tied the program's single-season record for pins as a sophomore and added seven more a year ago.
"All of our seniors have been great," added Rial. "They have made the transition smooth with having a new head coach. Their attitude and the way they come ready to work have been excellent."
That duo is helping to bring along a group of new faces that the program is looking to build for the future. Rial is excited about what the class in general will bring and has been pleased with the efforts they have been putting forth as they get accustomed to the collegiate pace and style.
"They will give us some great talent and depth," he says. "Byron Fleming is a guy that's been doing well and should make an immediate impact. However, we have several others that are getting better every day and are such competitors.
The team has 11 underclassmen on its 20-man roster, but according to Rial, that will not affect how the team goes out and competes each and every practice and match.
"Their attitude, effort and being coachable, are some of their biggest strengths," he states. "We need to work on as a team with wrestling through tough positions and being stingy on the mat."
Aside from Kerkhoff and Vaughan, Kevin Pape (197lbs) is the only member back with double-digit wins a season ago. The team will face a tough Loras squad that finished second in last year's regular season conference standings at 7-1. After the season-opener against the Duhawks, the Beavers will take part in the Dakota Wesleyan Open the following Saturday and then the Auggie Open on November 17. It will host Northwestern College (IA) on November 20 at 4:00 p.m. before hosting the annual BVU Open on Saturday, December 1.
On January 10, the program will again feature the "Dinner and a Show' event inside the newly renovated ballroom at the Siebens Forum. That will also be the team's final home dual of the year.
"My expectations are to continue to get better everyday and continue to create a championship lifestyle culture," Rial adds. "I will make sure these student-athletes have a great experience and prepare them for the real world. That also includes continuing to improve in the classroom as well."