By Cassidy Thornburg
Since Coach Jim Gruenwald took over Wheaton Wrestling in 2009, the program has grown from just a few athletes to 24, relocated to its own complex and welcomed three new assistant coaches. As the wrestling season gets underway, the Record sat down with Coach Gruenwald to talk about life both on the mat and off.
What does it mean to be back practicing with your team?
I love it because I am more disciplined with my workouts. On top of that I get to encourage the guys physically and spiritually.
How would you describe the discipline it takes to be a wrestler?
I have heard other coaches and athletes express their perceptions of wrestling training. However, all sports take discipline. Wrestling may be a bit more extreme because it is essentially a fight with rules and you have to make weight.
I’ve heard rumors that senior Grant Miller could be an All-American (AA) this season. Are there any other wrestlers that should be put on All-American watch or that you are expecting to perform well in their weight class?
Grant was a National Qualifier last season, and if he continues on a trajectory of improvement he could be an AA this year. At 184 pounds, Isaac Odell has been Women’s soccer players pose with CCIW trophy. Photo courtesy of Michael Hudson nationally ranked for two years. Unfortunately, because he got sick right before the Regional Tournament last season, Isaac placed 4th and only the top three athletes move on to Nationals. Ethan Harsted will be wrestling at 141 and has a solid chance of being a national qualifier and AA.
What is your team’s main goal this season?
We have been rebuilding since our 14th place finish at Nationals in 2018. The team needs more depth, and we have to improve our skill set. The standard is to serve God; the goal is to compete hard and win. When we finish a match, we thank God regardless of the result, for the wins to remind us to be humble and for the losses to remind us we have an opportunity to improve.
What are your thoughts on the incoming freshmen this year, and how do you expect them to impact the program?
The freshmen are a solid group of young men that are motivated to improve. More importantly, they have a great spirit of camaraderie in the class and with the rest of the team. They are pleasant to be around. Fun, but serious when necessary.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.