Don Rammel was approved at the June 15 Wooster board meeting to replace outgoing wrestling coach Troy Worth, who resigned in March following the completion of the high school season. It was a long wait for Rammel but ultimately proved worth it.
“We delayed the hiring process because the administrative team was in the process of hiring teachers (for the coming school year),” said Kellar, who said there were 10 applicants for the position.
The tipping point for Kellar was having the opportunity to see someone who had been in the system for seven years. Rammel had served as an assistant for a trio of head coaches, the final four under Worth.
“The first thing I liked was I had the opportunity to watch Don as an assistant coach last year, whether in the practice room or the opportunity to see him in dual matches and in tournaments. I was very pleased with everything he did as an assistant,” said Kellar. “He had situations that occur in sports that needed attention and I was impressed with how he handled situations that could have snowballed or gotten worse. He was very professional with how he handled those situations. I am glad to be able to get someone who knows the program and where it has been and has a vision for where it needs to go. There is no question Don has that vision.”
One of the keys in lifting the program into a competitive status is simple, said Rammel.
“Numbers. We’ve got to get numbers. For school our size, with 100 males in each class, our last class graduated only three seniors -- that’s only three percent,” said Rammel. “The past few years we’ve averaged starting out with 20 kids and, with injuries or kids dropping out, we’ve ended up with around 12. You can’t even fill out a whole roster for duals or tournaments.
“Obviously we have some great kids who can go out and score points, like (heavyweight) Trever Chapman, but you need more people out to help the team.”
That help needs to come from the youth and middle school programs, said Kellar.
“I think coach Rammel has a good handle on the youth program,” said Kellar. “He knows the pieces and he recognizes the need to find a way to strengthen the middle school program. The youth program has a number (of competitors) and he recognizes the need to find a way to strengthen the middle school program. The youth program is strong, but when they get to middle school the number dwindles. Kids lose interest at the middle school. If you don’t have that (experience), it’s hard to pick up as a 10th-grader. It’s different than some sports, like track. You don’t have to have experience to run the 100 – just be fast and willing to learn the technique, while wrestling is a lifetime sport.
“I think he has more than a five-year plan. If you want to build the program, you have to get down in the younger age groups and help develop the kids coming up in the program. You have to be down there promoting the sport and getting the kids interested and getting them excited. Wresting is a sport where you need to start early. Mat time is very important to be successful at the high school level and I am confident coach Rammel is going to be involved at all levels.
“From my perspective, regardless of what program you are head coach for, you have to make sure you are visible to the young boys and girls. You may not be coaching them now, but those kids have to recognize the face and who you are and be excited by you. I remember as a young seventh-grader when the head basketball coach walked into practice, it was like Bobby Knight had arrived. Everyone knew coach (Rick) Hewit. That’s why he was successful. He got down to the fifth-, sixth- and seventh-grade level and made sure we knew who he was.
“When coach Rammel walks into youth practices, eyes need to light up – ‘Coach Rammel just walked in!’ Just as important, the juniors and seniors need to integrate the same concept … (the younger wrestlers) need to look up to the juniors and seniors they represent.”
Rammel, who is the local Special Olympics coordinator at the Wayne County Board of Developmental Disabilities, is expecting his connection with the program will be a help.
“It is absolutely a plus for me being in there,” he said. “I’m a familiar face and not a coach … (New football coach Doug) Haas has to start from scratch. I have been involved with Wooster wrestling, I’ve coached brothers and cousins and I’ve known the parents through seven years. I do have my work cut out for me, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.
“It’s funny. On the same Friday I was named, we had 20 more kids for open mats,” said Rammel. “I’m not chalking all that up to me. It was a long wait since Troy resigned in March. The kids need to know who is in charge and they are all familiar to me.”
Rammel knows a little something about starting on the ground floor.
“I was a late bloomer,” said Rammel, who coached at Lima Central Catholic while attending Bluffton College. “I started my freshman year of high school (at Spencerville) and was talked into going out by a senior who told me they had an open weight class and asked me if I wanted to letter. I jumped in. I can relate to first-year wrestlers. … Wrestling can be an awkward sport – it’s not something you get up and do. It takes time to learn technique and body awareness, but with hard work and coming to open mats, you can get there by plugging away. Don’t quit because it’s hard—keep working and continue to grow.
“My big thing is, it is mental. Life is tough and I tell them tough times don’t last, but tough people do. One of the big things (to improve) is our overall mental toughness. When it is gut check time … get the escape, the turn or the pin. Bear down and get it done.”
Get it done. That is exactly what Rammel is looking to do.
Published: July 11, 2012