JACK LeCLAIR is a 2008 Urbana graduate who assisted with Judah Christian’s girls’ basketball program for four years. He’s now one of the Tribe football’s assistants and recently took over the Judah wrestling team. LeClair offers some insight:
Did you have prior wrestling coaching experience?
I actually have no experience coaching from a wrestling perspective. I’ve helped volunteer, but it’s more like I came in as a wrestling dummy, in a sense.
What are some of your early takeaways?
I’ve got eight kids this year. ... They look really solid. Their coach (Nate Albaugh) last year taught them a lot of good fundamentals, so I’m just building on that and getting them basically ready for competition level.
Which kids might stand out?
The Baileys, Jonathan and Jacob Bailey, I think they’re very strong at the lightweight class(es). ... Graycen Wacker, he was very solid. It’s just breaking off the rust this year from last year. And then Mike Jancola, I think he’s going to have a breakout year for us at the heavyweight class.
Is there still an excitement around a fairly new team?
The guys in the wrestling room are really excited. They love doing this. They’re very dedicated. They’re constantly asking me when the next practice is (and) can I push them harder. A lot of times I’m like, “Man, most people aren’t asking to be pushed harder in conditioning.”
What are your expectations for these kids?
They’re going to be able to compete in some of these tournaments, and I think we’re actually going to have quite a few competitive regionals with our kids ... push through into the sectionals. I think we’re going to have a very productive year.
Why is this a positive experience for the kids?
Now they have a sport they can stay active with through the winter. ... They can go and get varsity. They can feel like they’re a starter, part of the team more than just sitting on the bench. It leads to a more positive attitude and is very great and building strong-willed guys.