By Kary Booher (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
For longtime St. Louis Cardinals fan Jeff Engel, fundamentals in any sport are top priority, and that philosophy could be just the right fit for him and a Hollister High School wrestling program that is just now in only its fifth year of existence.
You see, Engel was promoted to head coach late in the summer and, given he is not a former wrestler, he has been all ears to learn new strategies and eager to accept help from nearby programs.
In fact, he recently attended a coaching seminar in which the key speaker was none other than J’Den Cox, the national champion wrestler from the University of Missouri and an Olympic bronze medalist.
“He said, ‘Just keep it simple,’” said Engel, an assistant coach the past two seasons. “That’s what we’re going to try to do – keep it simple and work hard.”
Some 10 of 13 weight classes are up in the air, but Engel is intrigued by four guys in the middle weights: seniors Josh Neville (145) and Braedon Newell (152) as well as sophomores Austin Hove (160) and Liam Mefferd (170).
Neville and Newell were spectators last year as Hollister’s Brandon Gandy and Matthew Cozart competed at state. The latter two have since graduated.
“They got to go with us to the state tournament and watch,” Engel said. “I’m hoping that inspires them to get there their senior year.”
Neville has been in the program four years now.
“He’s a little bit short and stocky but quick,” Engel said. “Newell is just the opposite. Those two kids, I don’t have to ask them to pick up the pace. They’re always going at 100 percent.”
Hove and Mefferd have been wrestling since their days in the junior high school.
“I’m hoping they can step in in those heavy classes and do some damage,” Engel said.
Fortunately, Engel has received assistance from Branson High School wrestling coach Garrett Hawkins as well as Jerry Inman, now coaching a youth program in Nixa. Both coaches have welcomed Hollister wrestlers in for summer workouts and so forth.
Plus, Hollister football coach Jacob Hamon has been supportive and encouraging his players to join the wrestling team.
“When football season is going on, you don’t want to beat the bushes too hard. When it’s over, I’ll go work on recruiting them. We need some numbers,” Engel said. “Branson and Jerry have been good us. They’ve welcomed our kids into their programs. That’s just wonderful.”
Engel also is raising the bar with the schedule with duals against Branson, Glendale and Central.
“We’ve got a big-boy schedule now,” Engel said. “When my seniors looked at it, they thought, ‘Wow.’ But that’s what we need to do. Our kids are going to get a lot of matches this year.”