By JAMIE BAKER
VAN BUREN — You don’t want to be the man who follows the legend.
You want to be the man who follows the man who follows the legend.
Elmwood wrestling coach Nick Davis, though, is the man following the legend.
Davis, an Elmwood grad and no stranger to being a head coach after stints at Fostoria and Ottawa-Glandorf, sits in the Elmwood head coach’s chair once reserved for Dave Lee.
And Davis is following a legend. Lee coached at Elmwood from 1987 until his retirement last year, racking up a state record 525 dual meet wins during his tenure.
“I wouldn’t say it’s no big deal, because Elmwood’s program is phenomenal, traditionally. I’m the third coach since I don’t know when. Joe Symczak was coach before Dave in the 1970s or early 1980s, so having only three coaches in that time it’s kind of a big deal,” Davis said.
“So far, it’s been a lot of fun. The guys are wrestling well, the room is very, very good, it’s intense. Our guys work very, very hard, which is a credit to our assistant coaches helping to get the guys motivated.”
It’s been a pretty smooth transition between Lee and Davis.
Elmwood has another solid team, as Saturday’s third-place finish at the Van Buren Invitational would attest.
Davis, who wrestled for Lee, came on as an assistant after leaving Ottawa-Glandorf. Rich Delamatre and Brian Endicott are also longtime assistants in the program. Alex Jasso and Dalton Ishmael have also joined the coaching staff.
“Coming from Coach Lee, to me, things are pretty similar because of the assistants,” Davis said. “They do so much. We have goals when they come into the room each day and when they leave the room each day.
“It starts down there with the little kids coached by Brian King and filters up to all the guys in our program. I’m so thankful and blessed for the people I have around me. It’s a group effort, not just me.”
Oh, and Lee?
He’s still hanging around as an assistant at the junior high level for Elmwood, along with his sons Westley, Dexter and Mitchell.
“There’s not a ton that’s a whole lot different. Coach Lee is still in the program at the junior high and is doing a terrific job. He has 25 kids in the middle school. He’s got 25 in two grades and we have 25 in four,” Davis said with a smile.
“He has some good kids coming up and he’s having fun with those kids. Those kids are falling in love with the sport. I think eventually we’re going to have a bunch of four-year seniors who are going to come up through that middle school program because of his influence.”
While the face in charge of Elmwood wrestling has changed, there is one thing about the program that hasn’t, a desire to instill attributes that make Elmwood’s student-athletes successful on and off the mat.
“More than success in wrestling, we want our wrestlers to be successful kids and become successful adults. That’s something Coach Lee did for a long time,” Davis said.
“Something we talk about a lot in our program is process over product, meaning that our work ethic is our process and our product is going into tournaments and getting better. We also talk about process as taking our work ethic out of the wrestling room and taking it into life.
“It’s not only about work ethic in the room, it’s transferring that to the classroom, college or a trade that they go into. We want to hear from them in five, eight or 10 years and when we hear how well they are doing, that’s awesome.”