Ottumwa elected someone from in house to start the next chapter of the Ottumwa High wrestling program.
Jeremy Frueh, an assistant coach for the Bulldogs this past winter, was tapped to take over the reins of the program since Kevin Cochran decided to retire after five years at the helm in Ottumwa.
Frueh was surrounded by his family — his wife Ashley and their daughter Mariah, 6, and son Tayton, 4 — when his hire was announced at a news conference Thursday at Ottumwa High School. The coach, who has coached wrestling in Ottumwa for seven years, six at Evans Middle School and one at the high school, is antsy to start his new job.
"I'm just ready to get going," he said. "I'm ready to get started and get working with the kids. The kids are excited, and I think the community is pretty excited about wrestling, so we're ready to go."
Frueh, an Ottumwa native who graduated from the high school in 2000 and spent a year as an assistant coach at William Penn University in 2006, had a fine wrestling career for the Bulldogs. He qualified for state in his sophomore and senior campaigns for Ottumwa and is a former district and conference champion. The portfolio of achievements he amassed at Ottumwa alllowed him to continue his career at Mount Saint Clare College in Clinton, IA, where he was a national qualifier.
Frueh will take over a program on the heels of one of its best seasons in recent memory — by far the best of the Cochran era. The Bulldogs went 11-11 in duals last season; which was more than they managed to win in the past four years combined. And, perhaps more importantly, Ottumwa had two wrestlers, Karsten Van Velsor and Kevin Childs, who both qualified for state.
Van Velsor, who finished 44-7 overall, made it all the way to the Class 3A state finals at 138 pounds, pullling an upset over the top-ranked wrestler in his weight class along the way; before he finally succumbed to defeat. Though both wrestlers will graduate this spring, the breadth of the team will be back next winter.
"Obviously, losing Van Velsor and Childs is big," Frueh said. "Van Velsor is just one of the best leaders I've ever been around, as a kid getting the other wrestlers up and stuff like that. But I think we have something really good to build on."
As an assistant, Frueh was tasked with many assignments usually not reserved for an assistant coach.
"Last year, Cochran did a good job of grooming me," the coach said. "He did a lot of things to prepare me for this. I did a lot of things last year that a head coach would be expected to do."
While Frueh's personality shares many of the same characteristics as Cochran — they are both wrestling junkies who share similar goals and a passion for the sport — he will make some tweaks to the program.
"The biggest change is going to be what we're doing in the summer," Frueh said. "In wrestling, it's a 12-month commitment, it's not five or six. And I think we have some kids who are starting to buy into that and once that happens I think we can be very successful."
Frueh noted that, for many Bulldogs, wrestling season never really ended.
"We have a lot of kids who haven't stopped wrestling," Frueh said.
He said he's looking at team camp this summer where the kids would get to compete in 20 to 25 dual meets. Some of the wrestlers Frueh will get to work with this coming winter include Tad Wilson, Isaiah Cox, Nathan Cary, Chase Wood, Wyatt Schlotter, Connor Mier, Scott Wilson, Jack Stabile, Collin McConnell, Alec Clark, Lucas Lunsford, Juan Aldaba, Garrett Goodwin and Justus Skinner. With Cochran's retirement and Andy Swedenhjelm, an assistant coach for last season's team, taking a coaching job elsewhere, Frueh is looking to fill two coaching positions on his staff.