These days, it looks like any other wrestling practice.
But just a few years ago, none of it was there.
“You kind of build a culture first, and then you kind of build as whole, a team,” said Drury Wrestling Coach James Reynolds.
When Drury founded a wrestling program four years ago, Reynolds set out to find his first recruits.
It turns out, he landed some good ones.
“I was one of the first year guys and building a program is a really difficult thing and it’s been a really nice journey to see how we’ve progressed a team going forward,” said Drury redshirt junior Jared Rennick.
Recruits like Rennick took the chance to wrestle at an unproven program, giving it life and receiving plenty in return.
“I grew up wrestling since 7th grade all the way to college,” Rennick said. “It gave me the chance to get an education. I love the sport and I’m so glad it gave me the chance for that opportunity. I’m a first generation college student for my family.”
Now Jared is helping to elevate the young program.
He, and sophomore Peter Kuster both rank in the top 10 nationally for their weight classes, putting D-U on the map for future wrestlers.
“That’s a huge part for me, to see people that I know, who I’ve maybe wrestled before in high school that are younger than me,” Kuster said. “Seeing them come into the program and helping them potentially just from what I’ve done in the past.”
Reynolds says those national rankings drive the team as a whole.
“Other guys are trying to stick their nose in it,” Reynolds said. “Other guys are trying to get in there and it’s become a friendly competition in the room.”
That’s helped the Panthers achieve a top 25 team ranking.
Still, these guys are hungry for more.
“What I want to be is an All-American and national champ eventually,” Kuster said.
“I told both of [Rennick and Kuster] ‘more people have walked on the moon than have beaten you in the last two years,’” Reynolds said.
That confidence shows this young program is no longer an upstart.
Instead, it’s a room of athletes not backing down from anyone.
“You need to feel that expectation, have that expectation when you step on the mat that you have a better chance of going into space than beating me in this match,” Reynolds said.
With a mindset like that, it’s tough to bet against these Panthers.