In Da Club: Spotlight on Wrestling
Issue   |   Wed, 04/03/2013 - 08:09

The stage was set. Guy Mastis ‘09 was set to wrestle for a national championship in Amherst’s first season as a club-wrestling program in the 2008-2009 season. His opponent didn’t even know where Amherst is, nor did most of the field at the National Collegiate Wrestling Association National Championship Tournament (NCWA). That all changed after Mastis won a national championship and earned all-American honors in the 235 pound weight class.

Fast-forward to 2012, and success has become the norm for the relatively new club-wrestling program. The varsity program was dropped following the 1989-1990 season, but there was vast support for a wrestling program from Amherst wrestling alumni who took the skills and work ethic they learned from wrestling into their daily lives. They realized the impact that wrestling had on their lives, and wanted current Amherst students to have the same experience. It is the financial support from alumni, as well as support from Athletic Director Suzanne Coffey and the rest of the athletic department, that has made this success possible.

Boasting a national champion and five All-Americans (top eight finish), the wrestling team continues to have success on the national stage without the notoriety that they deserve both nationally and here at Amherst. It is important to Coach Augustin that “these guys get acknowledged for their hard work and success at the National level."

This season was a banner year for the Amherst club wrestling team. The team boasted four National Qualifiers for the NCWA National Championship Tournament in Allen, Texas: Theo Agbi ’15, Kody Weaver ’14, Stefan Breitling ’13, and Travis Dickenson ’13. Competing in 36 man brackets against wrestlers across all collegiate divisions, as well as “transition schools” that are attempting to move into NCAA Division I or II, Amherst has had incredible success. The talent level in the NCWA has steadily improved year after year, making Amherst’s continued ascendency even more remarkable. Amherst has sent nine different wrestlers to the national tournament and has compiled an impressive 42-26 record in the National Tournament since 2009, firmly establishing Amherst as a wrestling power.

Led by Seniors Dickenson and Breitling, the program continued its march towards the top of the club wrestling ranks. Breitling is the program’s all-time wins leader and a three time National Qualifier. Dickenson racked up All-American honors for the third time in his Amherst career this season, as well as the program's first Most Outstanding Wrestler Award at the Northeast Regional Qualifier, but he wasn’t even sure he would continue his wrestling career at Amherst. Dickenson said,” I did not plan on wrestling in college, but once I got on campus and learned that Coach Augustin was trying to bring back the program I couldn’t help but get back on the mats." It is Coach Augustin’s passion and knowledge of wrestling that has continued the growth of the Amherst program. Agbi also has high praise for Coach Augustin: “I have had many coaches, but none of them is like Coach Augustin. He will push you through the ringer and make you work like you never thought you could, but at the same time he is very compassionate."

The enthusiasm Coach Augustin has for wrestling has translated into encouraging wrestlers of all ability levels to join the team. In fact, some of Coach Augustin’s proudest moments are watching his new wrestlers use their training and technique in matches for the first time. His program is “…geared to instruct, then to train our guys physically and mentally at every level, from competing for national championships to just learning the sport." For Dickenson, this environment was central to his experience as an Amherst wrestler. He said, “The team camaraderie has always been amazing and has provided us older more experienced guys with plenty of opportunities to help the younger guys." It is this kind of leadership that has allowed younger, more inexperienced wrestlers to grow and compete at a high level.

Moving forward without seniors who were at the heart of the program may be a deathblow at other programs, but not at Amherst. Coach Augustin as well as Dickenson believe that wrestlers like Agbi and Weaver will continue to be important contributors that will step into leadership positions next year. It is the attitude that Agbi takes onto the mat that will continue to push the Amherst wrestling program to new heights. After defeating a University of Texas at Austin wrestler, he said, “I had no idea that University of Texas Wrestling was such a big thing; to me they were just one more team I had to beat. I don’t care who you are or how good you are because at the end of the day you are standing between me and being the best."

It is the desire to be the best, whether they are beginning wrestlers or accomplished wrestlers, that pushes the Amherst wrestling team. They won’t settle until they are not only the best in New England, but in the nation.

Dickenson said it best about the Amherst wrestling program, “I will miss wrestling greatly, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way, having been able to walk off the mat for the last time with Coach Augustin in my corner."

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