SYCAMORE – For a couple of years, Alex Nelson was taking it slow.
After stepping down as Sycamore wrestling coach in 2014, he spent his two seasons away from the program – aside from the occasional time behind the scoreboard for meets.
Last year he spent the start of the season as an assistant coach, but after Brian Davis stepped down midway through the year, he took over on an interim basis.
Now the days of taking it slow are over.
Nelson was officially approved as the new head coach last month, taking over the gig he held from 2010 until 2014.
“It was nice to get a little break and spend time with (family),” Nelson said. “I actually helped my wife (Alyssa) out a little bit and gave her an extra hand. I kind of just took myself away from the sport for a little bit.”
With his batteries recharged, he dipped his toe back into the coaching pool last year, assisting Davis. After Davis took a leave, however, Nelson took over as the head coach.
“It was definitely not what I expected, agreeing to be the assistant coach and doing a lot of stuff (in the practice room) to the head coaching end of it,” Nelson said. “It was a lot. But I can’t thank my wife enough. When it was posed to me, we talked about it, and she was the one telling me that’s what I need to do.”
Nelson said the main reason he came back was the rapport he established with the wrestlers. He said he remembers seeing Artimus Cunningham – a senior last year he coached three years prior as a freshman – place at state last year, and said he wanted to help all the wrestlers reach their goals in that manner.
“Some of the kids are new faces to you, but you build new relationships with them,” Nelson said. “They’re kids you’ve been around for a year and you’ve grown close bonds with. Kids you still wanted to see more of and obtain their goals. I wanted to be a part of it and help them. I got a little bit of that fire back when I got in and took the reins.”
The Spartans sent four wrestlers to state last year, with Cunningham the only medalist. The other three qualifiers – Justin Montani, Trevor Boryla and Joey Beaudoin – all return this season.
Montani and Alex Crawford will compete next week at the USA Wrestling national tournament in Fargo, North Dakota.
Nelson said the key focus of the summer is to keep the room open and let the wrestlers have a chance to practice when they’re not busy with national tournaments, other clubs or other sports.
Sam Knuth, who missed all of last year with a shoulder injury, said that no matter the coach, practices are always about the grind.
“Summer’s been a lot of hard work so far,” Knuth said. “We’re just coming in putting in our hard work with coach Nelson. ... It’s all the same. Sam teaching ideal – put hard work in, get hard work out.”