Wrestling makes a move for the new season

ALYSSA GALL
SPORTS WRITER

Photo by ALLISON WOODLAND

Coming off of a successful season last year, the Alma College’s Wrestling team is looking to keep that same momentum as their new season came to a start on Wednesday, October 7, against Davenport University.

The team finished 17 out of 74 teams in the NCAA Division III Championship last season as well as graduating only one senior and welcoming in six new freshmen.

Wrestling Coach Jeremiah Tobias said, “As a team, we are pre-season ranked 15th. Brendan Ladd and Zachary Cooper are both ranked top 8.”

Their season finish and pre-season ranking helps set the tone and expectations for this upcoming 2019-2020 season. It helps the team outline and emphasize what steps they need to take to better themselves.

Our conversation at the end of last year was about the process and what they need to be doing in the off season to have a better out come this year. There were many guys that came back in great shape and it was in a way like we didn’t skip a beat from last year to this year. The team this year is a little bigger, older and knows what the expectations are and how hard they will have to work in order to accomplish their goals,” said Tobias.

With these expectations and goals in mind, the team hopes to carry their hard work in the off season into their practices and matches. Preparation for this season began when their last season ended.

This includes preparation both physically and mentally.

Junior wrestler, Austin Popp (’21) said, “The team has prepared both mentally and physically in the preseason and the season so far. Pushing the pace in practice helps develop not only our physical stamina and strength, but also our mental fortitude.”

During the off-season, the wrestlers made sure to stay fit and healthy in order to be best prepared for when practices began and to be able to give maximum effort on and off the mat. This includes everything from weightlifting to eating healthy.

“A typical practice consists of: a discussion with the coaches, warm-up, drilling, “live” wrestling, conditioning, and a cool-down, followed by a 5 minute visualization time in which we visualize what went well and what we can improve on going into the next practice or competition,” said Popp.

This mentality and daily practice regime is all a part of the team’s necessary steps towards having a successful season. The hard work and effort they put into practice will reflect how they perform on the mat in a match.

With the goal being to score the highest amount of points or touch both of their opponent’s shoulder blades flat onto the mat for about one second.

“A typical match consists of 3 periods, the first being three minutes, and the second and third being two minutes each, with the possibility of overtime periods in the case of a tie score. There is a scoring system which rewards points to each wrestler in regards to the position they are in, and the position they end up in,” said Popp.

In Alma’s match against Davenport on Wednesday, the Scots put to work what they learned in their matches. This included two wrestlers winning by pin fall with one pin being the quickest match out of the competition at 56 seconds.

When it was time for the team to compete, they were not only relying on their work in the pre-season as well as the returners, but for the new wrestlers to step up and make a move.

Referring to the Davenport match on Wednesday, Coach Tobias said, “It is going to be a tough dual. We are looking for our young guys to step up and our older guys to wrestle like they know they are capable of.”

Just as Coach Tobias predicted, the Scots faced a tough dual against the Panthers, but fell just short in a 25-20 loss.

This was not the outcome the Scots wanted, but is merely the beginning of the season with much time and room to overcome their losses and challenges. The goal for the team still remains the same and unfazed.

“The goal is to be MIAA champions, Top 4 at Regionals and Top 10 at the NCAA tournament while increasing the number of all-Americans and academic all-Americans,” said Coach Tobias.

Throwdown in A-Town kicks off winter

ALYSSA GALL
SPORTS WRITER

Photo by KELSEY WEISS

On Friday, Oct. 25, Alma athletics kicked off their winter sports season with the annual Throwdown in A-Town event. This event gathered all of Alma’s sports teams to come together for fun games and entertainment, while acknowledging the beginning of sports like Basketball, Swimming, Indoor Track and Field, STUNT and a few others.

Cheer and STUNT Coach Michelle Sabourin, who helped coordinate and advise the event, said, “Throwdown is the winter sports season kick-off. We started the event in 2013 as a way to bring a midnight madness type event to Alma College. We have since opened it up to be more of a pep-assembly event that brings all of athletics together.”

A-Town is a way to bring all of the sports teams closer. It not only gives students a break from the monotony of their school day, but is put on to teach athletes about each other’s sports and the differing teams on campus.

“Throwdown in A-Town is an event put on by Alma College SAAC (student athlete advisory council) and I [Sabourin] serve as one of the SAAC advisors,” said Sabourin.

SAAC hosts many events for students with A-Town being one of them. The purpose of these events typically centers around not just the students, who are all welcome to attend, even if they are not an athlete, but the relationship between the teams and coaches as well.

A-Town helps build unity among the college, teams and coaches. It involves numerous events and games for students and coaches to be involved in or entertained by.

“It brings athletics, Greek life and hopefully other members of the student body and community together for a fun night,” said Sabourin.

At this A-Town, students were treated to performances by the drum line from the Kiltie Marching Band, the Dance team, a free throw competition between the Men and Women’s basketball team and a dodgeball competition between the coaches as well as an opening performance from the Cheer and Stunt team.

These performances kick off their season and give the students a look at what each sport entails and as to what each team has been up to in their off season.

When asked why the Cheer and Stunt team love being a part of A-Town, Sabourin said, “As a sport where our result is based on strong performances, we love any opportunity to perform in front of a crowd!”

Besides these performances from the winter sports and coaches, other teams participated in the event as well.

Every year at A-Town, there is a tug of war challenge between the different sports seasons and Greek Life. This is where one member from each team participates in a game of tug of war to represent their team and season.

This year, winter sports went up against fall sports first and then went all the way to defeat Greek Life in the final and become the winner.

“My favorite part is the different contests because they’re pretty funny to watch,” said Jayce Kuehnlein (’22), a member of the Wrestling team.

Another challenge that happens every year is the “minute-to-win-it” challenge, where the winner gets their team and themselves VIP seats at the Scotty awards, another SAAC event for the athletes.

For this challenge, teams pick one player to represent their team. This player then had to hold a balloon with pencils while keeping their arms straight and only being able to grip the edge of the pencils.

When they got down to the finalists, they then had to hold the end of a pencil eraser between a stretched-out rubber band with their arms still remaining straight.

Soccer teams celebrate their seniors

ALYSSA GALL
SPORTS WRITER

Photo by GRACE GRELAK

Like every college, sports are a fundamental part of student athletes’ careers. It is something they partake in from their first day on campus to their last day.

Athletes learn not only how to master their sport at the collegiate level, but how to master the art of balancing school, practice, weightlifting, and games at the same time. For some, sports introduce them to their lifelong friends and teach them lessons they could not have learned from a book.

When senior student athletes cross the stage at graduation to get their diploma, they are leaving behind more than a four-year sports career. They are leaving behind something that has built them into the person they are today.

Therefore, many sports teams at Alma recognize this and participate in “Senior Day” games in order to give the team’s seniors proper recognition and send off from college.

“The senior game is the game where the team and supporters take a moment and recognize the current seniors on the team and all their work that they have put into the program in their time here at Alma,” said Kyle Farmer (’20).

Both of Alma’s soccer teams recently celebrated their seniors with the Women’s senior game being Wednesday, October 23rd, and the Men’s senior game on Saturday, October 26th. Each game took place at Scotland Yard, where the Seniors played their last guaranteed home game.

“Senior day is a big game for the team, especially the seniors. This is the last promised time that we, as seniors, will be able to compete on Scotland Yard which has been our home the past four years. We have cherished our time competing on The Yard and would do anything to have more time to rep the crest out on the pitch,” said Garrison Mast (’20), a senior on the Men’s soccer team.

Mast is one of the ten seniors from the Men’s team, who was recognized at the Senior game, while the women’s team congratulated two seniors on their season and career.

When recognizing the athletes on their success, they are surrounded by their teammates, family and friends. Seniors at either half-time or the end of the game will be asked to walk out to the middle of the field with their parents or family for pictures and the senior ceremony.

“At the game, each senior will be recognized with their parents. Our name, number, position, and post-graduation plans will be read off as we are recognized. Family and friends will likely be in attendance as it is the last time we are guaranteed to compete on Scotland Yard, our home the past four years,” said Mast.

The senior ceremony is a moment for seniors to reminisce on their sports career, while handing the team over to the underclassmen. It gives them a chance to look back on their time and provide their wisdom and tips to the future team.

“The senior game to me is an opportunity to thank the seniors for all the work that they have put in to making Alma College Men’s soccer the team that it is today. It is important to recognize the work that they have put in, not only at Alma but over the course of their careers,” said Farmer.

Having a senior game also allows players to say goodbye to a sport they have been playing since they were young. Many athletes coming into college have been playing their sport for years and have made it a part of their identity.

Senior games give seniors the opportunity to reflect on their sport career and time at Alma.

“My favorite memory would have to be scoring the game winning goal in our conference semi-final game my freshman year and the reaction from the team after. The celebration was complete unity within the team, no one cared who scored the goal. Everyone was united as a team ecstatic that we were moving on in the tournament,” said Farmer.

Senior games give teams the opportunity to recognize and thank seniors for everything they do on and off the field. Every player, whether they are a freshman or a senior, plays a role on a team.

Hence, when the time arrives for a player’s career to come to an end, it is only fitting to thank them for their time and commitment to the program they have helped build and participate in.

“Being a part of this program has meant the world to me. This team means everything to me; I would do anything for anyone that I have played with here at Alma. The brotherhood we have and the bonds that I have made are unreal and will last until the day I die,” said Mast.

Men’s Lacrosse wins under new coaching staff

JACOB SMITH
SPORTS WRITER

The Alma College Men’s Lacrosse team has completed their non-traditional fall season after their scrimmages against the University of Michigan-Dearborn and Central Michigan University this past weekend.

“We were able to win both games against some really good competition. Both were great all-around team efforts and every single guy was able to contribute,” said Men’s Lacrosse Head Coach, Adam Nycz.

Nycz is new to the head coaching scene here at Alma but this is not a new team or location for him. Coach Adam Nycz was actually the assistant coach of the team prior to his new position. He is coaching alongside his brother Jared Nycz (‘19), who is a former lacrosse player for the Scots and is now the assistant coach, filling his brother’s shoes.

The Buffalo, New York natives are thrilled to have taken over this program.

“I started playing lacrosse pretty young and was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to play in college. This game has taken me on an amazing path and I’ve always thought it was important to give back, so coaching had always been the best way for me to do that,” said Adam Nycz.

The team is also giving good feedback and excitement about the new coaching staff.

“We all knew Coach Nycz very well over the past few years so it wasn’t a tough transition to get used to [a new coach]. Coach Nycz has done a great job so far of making sure we are putting in full effort into everything we do,” said Men’s Lacrosse Team Captain, Thomas Needham (‘20).

Another captain of the Men’s Lacrosse Team, Connor Alley (‘20), has a similar opinion to his teammate.

“Coach Nycz [Adam] has been here since before my freshman year, so he knows how most of us tick. He knows the game of lacrosse better than anyone else I know. Not having him on the offensive side of the ball will be tough this year, but he’s going to do great things for our defense,” said Alley.

Though Alley is going to miss the new head coach on the offensive side of the field this year; he thinks that his brother, Jared, is the right man to take over.

“With Coach Nycz (Jared) we’re picking up right where we left off last spring. He was a teammate of ours and one of the best that I’ve ever played next to. He has done a great job with the transition from player to coach this fall. I think to a lot of us, he was more of a coach on the field the past few years anyway. So, the only thing that has really changed is that he’s not suiting up next to us,” said Alley.

The team had a promising fall season ending with a 20-5 win over Central Michigan University and a 13-7 victory against University of Michigan-Dearborn.

“I thought that the team played really well in both games. We were very successful on offense and the defense looked just as good if not better than it has in years past. Goalie play was great, and a lot of young guys were able to go out there and show what they are capable of,” said Alley.

The team is hoping this great start in the fall will transfer over to the team’s regular season in the spring.

“I thought the fall season went great. The new guys adapted really well to how we do things here whether it was on the field, in the weight room or in the class room as well and we just need to continue to be pre-pared everyday going into the regular season,” said Needham.

Captains like Needham and Alley play a big role on the team as far as how the team is structured and are a positive influence for many of their teammates.

“As a captain, our main role is to lead the team on and off the field. The three of us take the lead on a lot of the smaller tasks, like making sure guys are on time to team events, lifts, and practices. The Coaches really lean on us when they need things done. It’s our job to make sure the team is running how it should be so that we can be successful from the moment we step on campus,” said Alley.

Both coaches have big goals and high expectations for their team as they patiently wait for practices to start up again in January. For now, there focus for the team is in the classroom and the weight room.

“For the rest of the year our expectations will remain pretty high. The guys have the opportunity to really focus on the academics and hopefully they’ll continue to dedicate time to the weight room and improving their lacrosse skills. I’m really excited to get back on the lacrosse field and see what we can accomplish this spring,” said Coach Jared Nycz

Football takes feud from twitter to the end zone

ALYSSA GALL
SPORTS WRITER

On Saturday October 5th, Alma’s football team started off their conference season with a bang by defeating their rival, Albion, in a close 32-28 win.

Alma, who had been trailing Albion for most of the game, made a huge comeback in the final quarter of the game.

“Collin Smith’s interception in the 4th was a momentum spark. We had quick drives resulting in TD’s and the defense played great in the fourth quarter, forcing three and out possessions for the Brits,” said Head Coach Jason Couch.

This comeback win helped Alma not only charge past Albion, but placed them as 1-0 to start off the MIAA conference.

“We were very excited to be back on the field after our bye week.  On top of that, to play a conference rival and start MIAA play made it more exciting. We thought it would be a hard-fought game and it proved to be that,” said Couch.

However, the intense game was not just fueled by the conference rivalry between the two teams. The “battle” between the two began before the game even started.

For as long as the two teams have existed, they have always been major rivals. This rivalry impacts everything from the way they prepare, practice and even dress.

“They consider us as the ‘little brother’ which of course plays a part in how we prep. No purple at practice, no purple to be worn the week of the game to class. Anything Albion goes,” said Lawrence Mikowski (’22).

This played into the team’s mentality when it came to preparing. Alma did not have the winning record out of the two. Hence, the stakes to beat them were higher this year.

“We’ve lost to Albion the past few years and last year was especially hard since we were so close in double overtime. If there was a year to beat them and ‘shut them up’ it was this year,” said Mikowski.

The hunger for a win against Albion was not the only fuel this year.

During the week leading up to the game, a feud occurred with Albion’s retired Football Coach, Craig Rundle, commenting on one of Alma’s football player’s tweet.

Rundle instigated the argument when he commented on a current player’s picture of Coach Couch and referred to him as the player’s mom. This remark sparked an abundance of responses and support from the Alma community and past players.

“I felt obligated [to say something] because I have a lot of respect for Coach Couch and what was said didn’t sit right with me,” said Brenden Newvine(’19), a former Alma College football player.

Many athletes like Newvine stepped in to respond to Rundle’s remarks out of shock and respect for the program and coaching staff. The responses to Rundle focused on how unnecessary his comments were and how no coach at Alma would go out of their way to degrade another team like Rundle did.

Mikowski, who responded to Rundle about his character, said, “As soon as Coach Couch saw my tweet, he sent a full team text out just reminding everyone to stay off social media and not get involved. Once again, since I’m not technically on the team, it wasn’t really giving the program a bad look. I was just a student standing up for his school.”

Mikowski and Newvine’s responses were met with Rundle’s taunts of his Championship rings and trophies from his time as a Coach at Albion. However, for every taunt, there was an equal amount of responses about character and integrity from the Alma Community.

There was so much backlash towards Rundle that he even deleted his Twitter following the feud.

“I was proud of our guys.  None of the current players responded at all to his tweet.  Some past players did and he attempted to degrade them as well.  Once again, I am proud of the Scots for taking the higher road. Albion’s AD and current coach reached out to apologize for Mr. Rundle’s remarks,” said Couch.

Despite Rundle’s attempt to degrade and distract the team, the football team stayed focused on the task at hand – winning Saturday’s game. The feud became another incentive for the team to use when prepping for the game.

Coach Couch also used it as a learning opportunity for not only the team, but himself as a Coach.

“Just focus on what you can control.  I can’t control what someone, so distant from our program says or does.  One of his goals may have been to distract us…when you have a task to complete, you can’t let distractions get in the way of your preparations.  I love this team and love how our men showed maturity and focus,” said Couch.

Inclement weather starts new soccer tradition

BRETT JENKINS
STAFF WRITER

Michigan is known to have unpredictable and extreme weather, especially in the fall. To student-athletes on campus, it’s just a part of life. They can’t control the weather, and they can’t always cancel a game just because it’s raining. However, rain can cause more issues than just discomfort.

Two weeks ago the women’s soccer team had to play their game on the artificial turf on the Bahlke field instead of Scotland Yard where they usually play. The rain had flooded the field and it was deemed unfit for a game of soccer.

“We would have torn [the field] up,” said Sarah Dehring, Associate Athletics Director at Alma College, “The men’s soccer team had played on it the Saturday and Sunday before that so we just wanted to let it recover.”

The soccer teams weren’t the only ones affected by the inclement weather. It rained so much that there was standing water on fields all throughout Gratiot County.

“We even hosted the St. Louis homecoming football game on the turf (…) because their football field was underwater,” said Dehring.

Playing on the turf instead of grass is a pretty major change, and it isn’t always a welcome one. Many athletes, especially soccer players prefer to play on the grass. “I personally like playing on the grass better because I can actually slide tackle,” said Benjamin Briegal (23), a player on the men’s soccer team.

“A lot of players are afraid to slide tackle on turf because the turf burn hurts a lot,” said Briegal.

Whether or not the players enjoy it, playing on turf is a different experience—especially in the rain.

“Grass fields aren’t perfectly flat,” said Briegal, “The field floods a bit and there are puddles. If the ball gets into one of those puddles, it’ll just stop.”

The turf fields, on the other hand, have the opposite problem.

“It’s totally different. Especially when it rains, the ball skips really fast and it’s very predictable,” said Briegal.

In anticipation for those differences, soccer teams need to make a lot of preparations. The field needs to be painted with lines for a soccer field, and the soccer teams have to practice on a turf field to familiarize themselves with it.

“Anytime they’re scheduled to play on a field that they know has turf they’ll schedule some practices on the turf, and before [the women’s soccer team] played last Friday they practiced on the turf as well,” said Dehring.

Despite all the complications the women’s soccer team faced, the game on the turf was well received by the coaches and players. So well received that it might have started a new tradition for the women’s soccer team.

“Honestly it was a really great atmosphere out on the turf under the lights,” said Dehring, “It’s probably something we’ll look at doing once a year in the future.”

Athletes improve in the off-season

ALYSSA GALL
SPORTS WRITER

Photo by ALLISON WOODLAND

In an athlete’s career, they have two types of mindsets: their in-season mindset and their off-season mindset.

The season is the time of the year where athletes get to shine and compete for what they have been training for all year. It is where they show off their skills and hard work.

However, skills and hard work do not just form overnight. The offseason is where athletes work on bettering themselves and their skills.

“The off-season is the most important time for an athlete and their team,” said softball player Kendall Bird (‘20). “This is the time when you can go and work on exactly what you need to be better for your team and the upcoming season ahead. This is the time to get into the best shape possible and be as strong as you can be.”

Most of an athlete’s career is spent out of season. Therefore, it is up to them to utilize their off-season time as much as they can.

Currently at Alma College, winter and spring sports, such as Softball, Women’s and Men’s Lacrosse, Women’s and Men’s basketball and a few others, are in their off-season until late November or January when their seasons start.

Most of these teams have limited action on the field or court due to regulations and have to rely on finding other ways to prepare themselves for their season.

One way is through weightlifting or extra training on their own. “During season our lifts are lighter, not as frequent and more focused on sustaining strength,” said Bird.

“During the off-season, our lifts are set toward building strength. We use three out of the four days in the weight room as strictly lifting weights and the fourth day we use as a cardio circuit day.”

Most teams, when out of season, go to the weight room four times a week to keep themselves active and prepped for season. They also partake in “Fall Ball,” which is fourteen days in the off-season where the team can meet with their coaches to practice as a team.

Besides “Fall Ball,” players like Bird take initiative to make sure to go and get a few hits in to fine tune their skills every week.

Athletes who wait until the season starts to get back into the swing of the sport, often fall behind or lack the skills and rhythm they need for season.

It is important for athletes to constantly be working on their skills and fitness in the off-season whether it is with their team or on their own. Some athletes even utilize their off-season by partaking in another sport.

“Our team always jokes saying that our off-season doesn’t exist because we are always training. We get about two weeks total strictly no running and just cross training and then we go all season from there,” said Madeline McDonnell (’20).

As a runner, McDonnell participates in cross country and indoor and outdoor track. Hence, her off-season is generally in prep for the next season.

While she is training for cross country season, she is in season for track and vice versa.

“Personally, I use the track season to train for cross country because I run the same event all year around,” said McDonnell.

Athletes like McDonnell choose to use their “offseason” by being involved in other sports that help enhance and improve their skills for the next season.

It is similar to other sports’ “Fall Ball,” but involves the season mentality more than the off-season. However, this does not mean these athletes do not recognize the importance of their off-seasons.

“Having an off-season or a period of rest during training cycles are so important,” said McDonnell. “As athletes, we need to be able to trust our bodies and training levels so we know that we are capable of being where we are at physically as well as mentally.”

Besides training and weightlifting, athletes also have other ways to spend their off seasons. Many teams, such as the Women’s Lacrosse team, make volunteering a priority all year round, but especially in the off-season.

“The volunteer opportunities we participate in help our team become closer with each other and the community around us, which only positively affects our performance on the field,” said Courtney Hartnagle (’21).

Many teams use the off-season as a way to not only better themselves, but to better the community. It is a time for teams and athletes to give back to the people who support them in and out of season.

Alma welcomes potential athletic directors

COURTNEY SMITH
STAFF WRITER

This week, Alma College hosted three all-campus presentations on different potential candidates to fill the position of athletic director. The athletic director plays an important role on campus, so choosing the best candidate is a major responsibility.

“The athletic director is the spokesperson for the athletic department so in terms of our needs or the direction that we’re gonna take as a whole group is their responsibility,” said Matthew Chovanec, head coach of track and field and cross country.

The candidates for athletic director must demonstrate the abilities required to fill such a vital role in the athletic department. Athletic directors oversee many facets of the athletic program and the wider campus as well.

“We have goals for what we want to do in the field and in the sports we’re involved with,” said Chovanec. “We want to have goals for recruitment, and we want to have goals for retention. They have to be able to bring all those things together and help with getting us the resources necessary for us to be successful in that way.”

In addition to managing the athletic department, the athletic director also fosters meaningful relationships with student athletes. Many students know the athletic director personally and perhaps even look up to them.

“By overseeing and directing so many programs, almost every person on campus builds some level of friendship with the athletic director. He or she serves as a role model, mentor and friend for many student athletes,” said Steven Sowa (‘20).

Along with the relationships that an athletic director creates with student athletes, the athletic director also influences the type of environment a team hosts for its members. Strong bonds among team members create an infectious positivity that helps teams reach their goals.

“I can say that all the other coaches and faculty have created an excellent support system for whoever comes in to succeed,” said Sowa. “My four years here have shown a directed change in all sports teams to become a more family-like environment. I expect the new athletic director to continue this effort and contribute more ideas to connect student athletes across all teams.” The three athletic director candidates hail from very different backgrounds. Each of them brings different ideas for changes they would like to make among the athletic programs based on where they believe resources should be allocated in the future.

“I think they do a lot of evaluating what we already have in place and what we need to be successful going forward. I think each candidate has brought some strengths into it where they see some certain needs in certain places,” said Chovanec.

After the three athletic director candidate presentations ended, a hiring committee now must decide which candidate proves best-suited for the position. This decision may be quite difficult to make, as all of the candidates bring the potential for new, unique changes to the athletic department and the wider campus environment as a whole.

“I’ve enjoyed getting to know the people there and I think each one of them gave us a perspective of what the role of athletics is in college. Hopefully we will hire the best person for the job and continue to move forward. It’s exciting to say the least,” said Chovanec.

Regardless of who earns the position as the new athletic director, we can all look forward to welcoming this fresh face here on campus.

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