In his second season as Heidelberg's wrestling coach, Ned Shuck is setting standards for the program that are both simple to understand and ridiculously difficult to achieve.
"You know, I tell all our guys, I tell all our recruits when we bring them in, 'Hey, we're not interested in anything else than winning a national title," Shuck said. "I've done second, that's no fun."
But Shuck also knows something about being first. The former four-year letterwinner at the University of Iowa was an assistant at Augsburg College in 2010 when the program won the Division III national title.
PHOTO BY STEVE WILLIAMS
Heidelberg senior Andrew Johnson pins Daniel Mirman of John Carroll Tuesday. Mirman was ranked 10th in the nation in the 149-pound weight class.
"These guys know that [I want a national title]," Shuck said. "These guys know that. There's a renewed energy, I think. The guys are working hard."
The "renewed" part of that statement was apparent in talking to some of the wrestlers who were brought in by former coach Jason Miller, who led the Student Princes to five consecutive Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament titles before stepping down to focus on volleyball, another program Miller led to national prominence.
Miller's immediate replacement, Nathan Shearer, only led Heidelberg's wrestling program for a season before resigning becoming coach at Washington and Lee, a college in Virginia.
HU's program slipped a little in 2010-2011, placing second at the OAC meet and losing four conference matches, something almost unthinkable at the time.
Shuck took over last season, and the program finished third in the OAC Tournament.
This year, there is no OAC Tournament to prepare for -- it no longer exists. But Shuck's determination to cement HU as a national power has not only inspired the wrestlers, it has impressed them.
"We definitely are making the strides to get where we need to be in Division III," said senior 149-pound grappler Andrew Johnson. "The only thing I can really say at this point is this program will continue to grow with Ned Shuck as head coach."
For this season, Heidelberg is 10-6, 3-0 in OAC matches.
Delian Schneider, a senior 125-pounder and Columbian graduate who has national title aspirations himself, said Shuck's influence goes beyond the sport.
"The biggest difference, from my perspective, is he's helped me become just a better individual off the mat," he said. "On the mat, the guy knows his stuff. He's super, super talented. He's very knowledgeable about the sport. I'm very fortunate to be able to work with him individually."
Johnson was asked what he expected from Heidelberg this year.
"My goal is to win OACs as a team, and [individually] to be first-team OAC champion, and be All American this year," he said.
Beyond that, Shuck, and his wrestlers, have one goal -- a national title.