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Coach's Corner: Thoughts From Bryan Brunk
By Bryan Brunk
Head Wrestling Coach, Messiah College
About Coach Brunk



A New Day

Posted 8-31-11

Well, it's been too long since my last blog entry and I am committed to more regularly updating this blog this season.  To start out, I just want to express the excitment for the coming year by letting you know what's been going on in the life of Messiah Wrestling this past summer.

Recruiting efforts yielded incredible fruit.  We brought in 13 freshmen and 2 transfers to move the total roster number to a whopping 39 members! This will certainly provide some challenges in practice space, but I've developed a number of strategies and I believe the strength of roster size will outweigh the challenges.

Our wrestlers were committed to off season training this summer! Many members of the team spent time with recent American University All American Steve Fittery to train.  Other wrestlers worked wrestling camps in Cornell, NY, local high schools, and of course at Messiah.  Other members were committed to working out at local wrestling clubs and following through with our strength program.  Hopefully everyone followed through as the testing grounds will be upon us in a couple of months.

Finally, a number of our wrestlers had the opportunity to go on missions trips this summer.  I had the chance to take four of our wrestlers on one such trip to the Dominican Republic.  What an awesome experience!  We were able to participate in some wrestling clinics at their training center in Santo Domingo, deliver water filters to remote sugar cane villages, and visit several orphanages.  It was encouraging to see God working in and through the young men from our team and I'm excited on every level to see the overflow of this experience during the season.

Blessed be His name,

Coach B

Mid season

Posted 1-13-11

It's about time to give a mid season update.  One of the great things about coaching this year's team is the depth that we have in the lineup.  This past week we suffered through losing a couple of key starters, quite possibly for the season, but we are still able to put a very solid lineup on the mat.  To me this speaks to the steps that the program has made in past couple of seasons.  As a result, we have been nationally ranked in five of the six rankings this year.  The team currently sits at #29 with a 5-4 dual meet record.  We have another great opportunity to face some national level competition this weekend at the Budd Whitehill duals. 

Through the first half of the year many individuals have performed well and as a team we continue to focus on developing our wrestling to be in the best position to perform at the end of the year. Some of the top performers so far have been:

Spencer Alexander (13-7 at 125)- Spencer has been one of the most improved guys from last year and is really embracing his training, he placed 3rd at the Petrofes tournament!

Kyle Coblentz (12-8 at 133)- Kyle has placed in several tournaments and picked up some key dual meet wins to help the team.

Ty Kanouff (10-3 at 141)- with wins over a returning All American and another returning National Qualifier, Ty has shown that he can compete at the national level.

Chris Hardenberg (12-11 at 149)- Hardenberg has an amazing work ethic and it seems to be paying off this year.

Mike Bressler (8-3 at 157)- Mike is still working off some of the rust after returning from last year's injury, but showed what he is capable of by winning the Petrofes tournament.

Matt Cross (16-1 at 165)- Matt was dominant first semester.

Ricardo Plummer (14-6 at 174)- Ricardo has come out of the gate very quickly as a first year college wrestler.  He is confident and exciting to watch and will only get better with experience.

Tim Stewart (15-5 at 184)- Tim got off to a slow start, but notched some impressive wins over ranked opponents. 

Tim Hopkins (11-8 at 197)- Hopkins is having his best season yet and looks to finish his college career strong.

Pat Hogan (12-9 at HWY)- with Pat at HWY, the falcons have an anchor to the lineup!

Blessed be His name,

Coach B

We're talking about practice

Posted 11-9-10

When you think about it in terms of the whole season, every competition is really just a rehearsal for the end of the year.  With that in mind, I feel like the Falcons had a great first rehearsal!

Coming off of the weekend, I have to pleased with our performance at the Messiah Invitational.  Sure we finished first, and sure we had 10 individuals place in the tournament, but what I was most pleased with was the evidence of how we have intensified things in our practice room this year.  There were a lot of examples of our wrestlers wearing down opponents as their matches went on.  Furthermore, while we don't want to get used to wrestling from behind, a number of our guys showed resiliance in come from behind wins.  You can check the brackets to see how Matt Cross dominated, or how Russell Jones upset a nationally ranked wrestler, but what you won't see is how Matt DelGallo fought off his back twice in his first match only to come back and pin his opponent.  You won't see early deficits in each of Andrew Clarks come from behind wins, as well as various other examples of mental toughness, desire, and belief.

I'm excited for our first rehearsal...we have work to do, but we are physically and mentally tougher than we've been in past years.  Looking forward to practicing up for the next practice!

Blessed be His name,

Coach B

And They're Off

Posted 11-1-10

We are about to get underway with our first official competition this coming Saturday so I wanted to give a brief preview of this year's squad.  First of all, I've been extremely excited about our practices.  This preseason has been totally different than any of my previous 7 preseasons as head coach because we completely overhauled our plan, practice expectations and practice design.  The team has responded very well and has a great energy as we get set to test ourselves in the Messiah Invitational.

There are going to be a lot of battles this year as we do boast good depth in most weights.  Here's a weight by weight look:

125- Returning starter Danny Lethbridge had 17 wins last year and really worked hard in the weight room this summer.  Danny will have plenty of competition as 125 is probably our deepest weight.  Returnees Spencer Alexander and Andrew Rentzel look to improve on last years results and a trio of talented freshmen are looking to make their mark at the weight.  4X Maine State Champion Matt Del Gallo will see if he can capatilize on his ability to scramble and his great athleticism, Matt Gusick is putting in as much extra time as anyone else at the weight, and Pennsylvania state qualifier Kyle Coblentz has looked very tough in the wrestling room this October.

133- To start the year senior Andrew Clark should pick up where he left off as the team's starter at the weight.  Andrew continues to improve and has worked himself into a full size 133.  One of our most talented freshmen in Victor Bracey will be working his way back onto the mat as he recovers from a preseason injury and by season's end he will certainly be a handful.  Stephen Antonek will move up a weight and provide some needed depth as well.

141- Ty Kanouff returns here and has always been athletic and explosive.  It will be an enjoyable challenge to help Ty figure out match strategies to set him up to win the tough matches this year.  Josh Bressler will also look to find meaningful time here and should improve on his 13-8 freshman record.  Josh has been a real bright spot in practices this preseason as he's really responded well to the new focus.

149- Three wrestlers will man the weight and all three look to step up and prove something this year.  The battles in the room have been fun to watch between Logan Putnam, Chris Hardenberg and Dave Standridge.  Standridge is the newcomer here, but has some dangerous weapons and a strong wrestling background.  As two of the hardest workers in our room Putnam and Hardenberg have continually improved throughout their careers.  Each one looks to break through the starting lineup this season.

157- Senior Mike Bressler will work his way into the lineup by midsemester and has been working hard to finish his college wrestling career strong.  He'll be challenged by senior Ryan Pastore and freshman Stephen Cannon.  Cannon was a four time state qualifier in Maryland and has shown great young leadership and a hunger to learn so far this year.

165- Matt Cross may finally be at the right weight this season as he finished last season at 174 and wrestled 157 the year before.  He is really looking like a beast in the wrestling room and has put in a ton of time this off season.  I expect big things from him this year.  Freshman Ben Kramer is eager to learn and is working hard as well.

174- With four participants, this weight should provide plenty of competition as well.  Dave Jones is another returner that will be slowly working his way back into the lineup as he rehabs from an early injury.  He is explosive and experienced; what's more he's very focused on finishing strong.  In the meantime Davin Okerblom, Ricardo Plummer, and Steve Bandstra will vie to be the early season starter.  Okerblom has always been a hard worker and now as a junior he's really developing some of his offenses and control in scramble positions.  Steve Bandstra is wrestling very well in practice and is really buying in to developing an aggressive style of wrestling. Plummer was a PA state qualifier and is going to be a threat everytime he wrestles. He has incredible hips and a very determined spirit.

184- With two upperclassmen this may be one of the mostly hotly contested weights.  Tim Stewart has already been a two time conference placewinner and appears to really have improved his strength and kinesthetic ability over the summer.  Mike Hojnacki is looking to follow up on a strong junior year; he's one of the team's key leaders and as a real student of the sport he's working to add some tools to his toolbox for this season.

197- Russ Jones and Tim Hopkins will battle for the spot at this weight.  Both wrestlers have made spot starts throughout their career, but each of them have a chance to break through this season.  They should be a really interesting matchup as they both have unique wrestling styles.

285- Three upperclassmen will look to anchor the lineup including seniors Zane Bachert and Pat Hogan.  Zane has been the starter for the last two years and was vastly improved last year.  Pat will be a small athletic heavyweight looking to capitalize on his quickness and athleticism.  Junior Ethan Covalt is working hard and has some great strategies to improve on last season.  He is very strong and will benefit if he can work on his positions.

All in all, we're very excited to get started.  Look forward to checking back in soon.

Blessed be His name,

Coach B


A New Year

Posted 8-27-10

As the summer comes to a close and new students arrive on campus, I want to fill you in on a productive summer and share my optimism for this year's team.  This summer we hosted over 200 wrestlers at our July Summer Wrestling Training and held our first ever Overflow Intensity Training.  The intensity camp was an incredible new initiative that asked high school wrestlers to take their training and their faith to a new level; I'd encourage you to listen to some of the interviews on www.PAWRvideo.com to hear what an impact the camp made on the lives of those who participated. 

The report from our returning wrestlers is that many had productive summers.  I know that many of our wrestlers trained at wrestling clubs in their area, participated in some open tournaments, and involved themselves in summer ministries both at home and abroad.  I'm looking forward to seeing how much the guys have grown in their spiritual lives and in their wrestling.

With the addition of 10 first year wrestlers, we will have a 36 man roster this year; the biggest our team has ever been.  This poses a number of challenges, while also providing us with a lot of flexibility and reason for excitement.  Stay tuned for a more detailed pre competition preview and check our roster as we update individual profiles to get a sense of the men on this year's team.

Blessed be His name,

Coach B

Coming Back
Posted 12-2-09

I'm learning that I'm not a very good blogger...but I'm finding time, in a very busy week, to share something that really struck me on the way back to Messiah from Rhode Island a couple of weeks ago. 

The season's is well under way, and like any season, has already had some ups and downs.  The team is wrestling well and making improvements each week, but still had not quite accomplished what we were hoping for as far as team finishes at our first two tournaments.  At the beginning of our six and half hour van ride home on Sunday morning, senior Domineak Commodore led our van in a couple of praise and worship songs.  The first song was "The Heart of Worship".  Now I've often told our team that training for wrestling and competing with my efforts rooted in my identity

 in Christ can be an intense form of worship, if done for Him.  With that in mind, the song struck me in a different way.  Many times, even as a Christian team, we get wrapped up in just the wins and losses.  Even though winning is an ok goal, and we are going to train to win, it isn't the "Heart of Wrestling" at Messiah College. 

As I reflected on that worship song during the ride home, and even after a very successful quad match the following week, I decided that I am coming back to the heart of wrestling.  We'll keep trying to win, but at the heart of what we're doing it's all about Him.

Blessed be His name,

Coach B

The Smell of Sweat is in the Air

Posted 10-13-09

Well as we begin a new season, I'm realizing there's a lot to be thankful for both looking back and moving on.  Since my last entry, Messiah Wrestling has rallied together for a phenomenal performance at the conference tournament, seen Craig Gin become our first All American since 2003, hosted dozens of recruits at both our Summer Wrestling Training and fall takedown tournament, and welcomed 8 new members of our team.  It's been an eventful number of months. 

Still at this time of the year we are looking forward to the season.  Practices have started and I am beginning to get a feel for our current team.  I'm already seeing that God has a lot to teach us off the mat and expectations are very high on the mat.  I thought it would be a good time to give a brief preview of the season.

With 34 men on the roster, we have a lot of depth.  I expect there to be heated competition throughout the year at several weights, and we'll have the flexibility to adjust our lineups for several competitions.  I'd be remiss to guess at an eventual starting lineup at this point.  We return 8 of last year's Empire Conference participants and expect big things from ECWC place winners Domineak Commodore (133), Mike Bressler (157), Trent Zempel (165), Dave Jones (174), and Tim Stewart (184).  Along with these men are a number of veterans who have put in a lot of time this off season and could really surprise some people.  In addition a number of newcomers really are impressing me early, but I suppose time will tell.

It is important for all of us to keep perspective at this point in the season.  It's a marathon, not a sprint.  Hopefully we can stay in tune with the lessons He's trying to teach us along the way.

Blessed be His name,

Coach B

And Now for Act II
Posted 2-13-09

Last night's dual meet marked the end of the regular season.  Now we enter one of the most important times of the year for our team.  I say "one" of the most important times because while we are focused on the championships, the experiences, triumphs, lessons, and growth that we have been through this season are invaluable components to the development of each individual as a wrestler and as a Christian.  Every phase of the season is important, the post season is just the measuring stick.

With the end of the regular season, I have a couple moments to reflect on what this team has accomplished so far.  Last night we dropped a hard fought dual to Muhlenberg College and earlier this week our team dropped out of the National Rankings.  This leaves us just short of two goals: finishing with a winning record and in the top 30 in the team rankings.  While this is disappointing, I want to focus on the character and development that our young team has exhibited despite losing five starters to season ending injury.  This year's team showed up in 5 of the 7 National Rankings on the season and finished the year 11-12.  Freshmen like Danny Lethbridge and Tim Stewart were thrust into the lineup due to injuries and responded with 14 and 18 regular season wins respectively.  Veterans Alex DeHart and Nate Deisem found their way into the lineup for the first time in their careers.  Some of our backups made the most of every opportunity to be in the lineup (Logan Putnam was 16-9 and Matt Cross finished 22-11) but more importantly have sold out in practice to making the starters the best that they can be.  Last night I saw a team that was disciplined, fought for every point and every position, wrestled with confidence, and still came up short...the victory is in the effort, attitude, and discipline that characterizes a Messiah Wrestler!

We're excited to make some adjustments to our training and improve a little more this week.  Next week it's final exams for wrestling.

Blessed be His name,

Coach B

Firsts are Foremost
Posted 1-20-09

It was a great weekend for firsts for Messiah Wrestling.  On Saturday we held the first ever Messiah Open, a tournament designed to give all of our guys a well deserved opportunity to compete in the second semester.  I was really pleased with our reserves as they wrestled the same brand of wrestling that is expected of the starters.  The Open was a good chance for some of our upper classman to have a championship of sorts and for some of our younger guys to showcase the future of Messiah Wrestling.  I was especially impressed with a few individuals.  Davin Okerblom had his best day in his young career and really progressed as the tournament went on; he earned the title at 174.  Logan Putnam has improved dramatically throughout this season and as only a sophomore, has a bright future for the Falcons. 

The other major first on the weekend was a victory over Lycoming for the first time in the program's history!  I can't express how proud I was of this team on Friday night.  It would be easy to be proud of such a first, but the way the team responded to a very disappointing loss to Etown is noteworthy.  Our pressure was great, our confidence was evident and our poise was phenomenal.  I was pleased with the entire team; from the guys who earned bonus points, to the guys who fought through injuries, to the guys who defeated an opponent that they had lost to.  Still, I would be remiss to omit my humble admiration of one of this team's true leaders.  After finding out that his season was over due to injury, Trent Zempel was the team's loudest cheerleader and exhibited as much enjoyment in the win as any other wrestler.  If we continue to wrestle within our principles, stick together as a team, and work to improve just a little each practice, I think we have some good things in store for this postseason.

Blessed be His name,

Coach B

The Long and the Short of it.
Posted 1-16-09

I'm excited to be able to start sharing my thoughts on the team's progress and development throughout the year!

If you haven't been paying attention, Messiah Wrestling has had a solid year so far.  We're in the middle of the longest part of the season, but it will be over before you know it.  Right now the team has wrestled well enough to earn a ranking of #27 in the nation.  Recently we placed for just the second time in team history in the prestigious Budd Whitehill Duals.  We have a lot to work on and have some high hope for the rest of the season. 

In other realms, I have seen so much growth in this team.  I know that God is working in the lives of these young men, as well as this coach, through both triumphs and disappointments.  Recently we've run into a rash of injuries and lost our top wrestler to a season ending injury.  It has been challenging, but very encouraging to see the team pick each other up and demonstrate the love of Christ to one another.  We are committed to wrestling with the discipline, preparation, confidence and firm foundation that a Christian wrestler should have. 

Well, those are my thoughts for now.  I look forward to seeing a superior effort from our young men tonight as we try to beat Lycoming for the first time in school history!

Blessed be His name,

Coach B