Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Kruse takes over wrestling reins

Kruse takes over wrestling reins
By Mike Lopez/Sports Correspondent
Tue Aug 11, 2009, 03:07 PM EDT

SUDBURY - As a collegiate wrestler at Plymouth State, Taylor Kruse was dealt a frustrating sequence of injuries and was ready to hang it up.

Instead, he took the advice of former Lincoln-Sudbury coach Harry Coffin and took a different, albeit unique, path to recovery. "Harry told me to take my notebook out, go to every practice, and learn the wrestling,'' Kruse recalled. "He said I needed to soak in as much as possible since one day he thought I'd be a coach."

Kruse listed to Coffin's advice, and a few years later, he was at L-S as an assistant coach. This winter, Kruse will take over the head coaching position, replacing Brian Quinn and inheriting a squad that finished 11-5 last winter.

"The thing I admire most about Taylor is his emotional intelligence,'' said L-S athletic director Nancy O'Neil. "It doesn't matter if you are a state caliber wrestler or someone learning for the first time, you are going to get the same care from Taylor.''

Kruse, a member of the L-S class of 2001, didn't wrestle until his junior year of high school. By his senior season, a Warriors squad which for years had struggled finally started to show promise. "We were brawlers and not technicians,'' Kruse admitted. "The program has come a very, very long way. (Former head coach) Bill Jansen and Harry Coffin had a lot to do with that.''

Kruse wrestled as a 174 and 184-pounder at Plymouth State, although elbow problems often kept him on the sideline. But Kruse made up for not wrestling as a youngster by taking in everything he could regarding technique, training, and nutrition. Additionally, he majored in physical education with a minor in health.

Upon graduating, Kruse began working as a personal trainer, a gig he still holds today. His specialty is the Burdenko method, a combination of land and water training meant for recovery, injury prevention, and strength building. Recently, he worked with Canadian diver Alex Despatie, the silver medalist in Beijing, helping him return from a broken foot.

Kruse hopes to make the connection with his athletes at L-S that wrestling is as much about nutrition and lifestyle as it is about technique and brutality. "In order to be a good coach, you need to bring the whole picture,'' said Kruse. "So many coaches are good technicians, but they may not have the nutrition, conditioning, and training pieces. Those are huge parts of this sport.''

Captains for the L-S squad in the upcoming winter are senior Carter Mode and junior Zach Smerlas. Smerlas leads a group of several talented junior wrestlers that came to L-S during Kruse's first year as an assistant coach.While looking forward to the future seasons on the sideline, Kruse was particularly thankful for those who came before him.

In particular, he stressed the work of Gary Gentel, Tim Gardener, and Joel Mode for their work in turning L-S from the laughingstock of the DCL wrestling community into a school capable of competing for the league title. "If the youth program continues to grow, and I think it will, L-S will only get stronger,'' said Kruse. "The youth program is absolutely critical, as wrestling is a sport with so much technique. It's a difficult sport to learn on your own.''

At L-S, wrestling is a sport that has taken off. Added O'Neil, "I think there were a total of 16 kids in my first year at L-S and that was was 1995. It's really grown, there's a groundswell of interest, and I credit the coaches who have been here. Taylor is the type of person that can generate the belief that you can come on board, learn a lot, and become the best student athlete you can be. He blends a competitive and caring nature, and that's what this program needs."