It was a celebration in East Lansing Saturday night as their football team left Indianapolis with the Big Ten Football Championship, and a trip to play Alabama in the first round of the NCAA Football National Championship Playoffs. With that being said, I offered my condolences to my Spartan co workers today when I arrived to work. Strangely enough, they hadn't been as familiar with the embarrassment of their wrestling team being shut out by Eastern Michigan University and Central Michigan University each over the weekend. My sympathies weren't acknowledged really, but that is where it gets to be a serious issue. Is this how big programs dissapear entirely? No, it can't be. They are making a coaching change after this year which should help... Except that they are replacing their coach who spent 5 seasons too many at the help with his equally effective assistant. If you are reading this, you already know all of this, but lets dive a little deeper into some of the argument/counter arguments to be made.
Before I really begin, remember that I have overwhelmingly positive feelings towards Michigan State and their wrestling program. Nick Simmons is one of my favorite competitors of all time (spoiler alert, I'm not the only one who wants him to save this dumpster fire), and Grey Maynard, Rashad Evans, Mike McClure, Franklin Gomez, Andy Simmons, Eric Olanowski, and a variety of other exceptional talents don't deserve to watch their once respectable and competitive programs to reach rock bottom like it is without anything that appears to be a realistic solution.
Lets start by the numbers. As I mentioned, the last two duals MSU wrestled they lost by scores of 34-0 to Eastern Michigan and 33-0 to Central Michigan. I'm an alumni of CMU and lived in Ypsilanti for a summer, so I am fans of both schools, but I'm not going to make the argument that either of them are National Championship Contenders this year. I once attended a dual in Ann Arbor where Michigan was rebuilding, and was shut out by Iowa. Difference, Iowa won the NCAA Championship that year, and Michigan fired their assistant coaches after that season and has since righted the ship. MSU has a plan, but they came up with it before the year has begun. From what I have read considering this transition, there is a lot of support from some of the alumni of the wrestling team. I truly hope that all of this is a waste and that I am wrong, but I don't understand what I am missing. There is a lot of support from alumni because he has been at MSU for 19 years... 19 of the 25 years that Minkel has been there. That means that he has been a pivotal part of them placing no higher than 7th place in the Big Ten in the last 10 years. They managed to place 11th in the Big Ten in 2009 with a NCAA Champion on their roster. They haven't had a winning dual record since 2005. These are my concerns, paired with the fact that they are 0-5 this year, having scored a total of 21 points in their 5 dual meets. These are some of the things that concern me.
Clearly someone has to finish in last place in the Big Ten. Clearly there are other programs that don't appear to have the sense of urgency to upgrade their staff as much as you would think. The thing that worries me is that the programs that improve have two things in common. First of all, they bring in someone who has recent history of winning. Whether they are bringing in recent champions or All Americans, they need someone who knows what it takes to achieve your goals and still has the fire to compete on some level. Programs follow the blueprint towards success by finding these people who have something special to offer their future. There aren't that many college programs, so it shouldn't be hard to come accross these people with a solid interview process and screening. The talent pool is large is what I'm saying, and there are plenty of exceptional assistant coaches who I'm sure would be interested in head coaching opportunities within the Big Ten. Secondly, and this is where it gets scary for MSU, they need an athletic department that cares about the product. Clearly Michigan State's Athletic Director does a good job of putting resources towards Football and Basketball, but I'm not sure they really know about the Wrestling Program and what is going on there. I watched the dual against Ohio State on Big Ten Network last year when OSU sent out their backups and destroyed MSU in a virtually empty gym in East Lansing. That is embarrassing for a program and was sad to watch as a fan of MSU. It just worries me that this may be how programs that should be good, get cut or become obsolete.
Here is a quick list of talent that has come out of Michigan over the last couple of years. Gabe Dean, Tim Lambert, Connor Youtsey, Taylor Massa, Logan Massa, Alec Pantaleo, Adam Coon, Andrew Morse, Jackson Morse, Gabe Morse, Nate Limmex, Jack Rozema, all of the Amines, Aaron Calderon, Cole Weaver, Devin Skatzka, Josh Kettel. WIth the exception of Gabe Dean (who I felt was worth mentioning considering he lived 35 minutes from East Lansing and his father wrestled for MSU), all of these other wrestlers were recruited from Michigan to other Big Ten Schools. MSU is getting some talent from within the state, in fact the majority of it is within the state, but they don't seem to develop it as strongly as they used to as well as of late.
That's all I have for now. A combination of sadness and confusion. I once heard the what takes people from sadness to depression is a feeling of helplessness. With that being said, I wouldn't blame Michigan State Wrestling fans for feeling a bit depressed right now. Sparty on!