Sweazy is new Iola wrestling coach

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Sports

June 30, 2011 - 12:00 AM

A foundation had been set. Aaron Sweazy watched from the other side of the wrestling mat as Iola High’s Mustangs worked through a third year of competition last season.
“I was impressed with what I saw from Iola High wrestlers this past season. I was impressed with what I saw from the kids who showed up for an impromptu clinic we put together last Friday morning,” Sweazy said one day after being confirmed by a USD 257 Board of Education vote on Monday night.
Sweazy is the new wrestling coach for Iola High and Iola Middle School programs. He comes to Iola after a year as an assistant coach for Columbus High’s Titans.
Next week, Sweazy will get to know the Mustang wrestlers, IMS Pony wrestlers and members of the Allen County Kids Wrestling Club with a free wrestling camp. The camp is Tuesday through Friday, 6-8 p.m. at IHS.
Sweazy said he is teaming up with Mat Warriors head coach John Taylor to conduct this year’s Mustang Wrestling Camp. It is for boys and girls, ages 5-18.
“I’m looking forward to working with Coach Taylor and my assistant coach Rick Horton. It’s great to have Rick in place because he knows the kids,” Sweazy said.
 “Each one of us has something to bring to the mat and help strengthen the sport of wrestling in Iola and Allen County.”
Sweazy, 31, grew up in Chapman, just west of Junction City. He knows how it is to struggle to achieve goals much like the wrestling programs in Iola and Allen County. Wrestling is a “new” sport to Iola; the school programs and the kids club have been established for less than 10 years.
Sweazy by his own admission was not the top wrestler at his high school or in college.
He is a cancer survivor. But his passion for wrestling won out and that is what he brings to Iola, he said.
“Mental toughness, setting goals, meeting challenges — those are the aspects I want to focus on with both the high school and middle school programs in Iola. I told our kids last week that teams look at Iola as a team that they can beat,” Sweazy said.
“Iola is a team right in the middle, like the middle child in a family. We’re champions now. Not in the future. We’re champions now and that’s the attitude we’re going to cultivate.”
Sweazy began wrestling in the seventh grade. He was on the Chapman High School wrestling team.
“I wasn’t the best athlete and lost more matches than I won most of time but that made me stronger. I believe in building not just the physical aspect of the sport for the wrestlers but the mental aspect,” Sweazy.
He said he came within seconds of qualifying for the state wrestling tournament as a senior, winning over 20 matches. “But it wasn’t to be and I didn’t get recruited to wrestle after high school. I went to Butler County Community College for two years with a different path.”
But the passion for wrestling was still there for Sweazy. He got his opportunity to get back on the mat at the collegiate level at University of Central Oklahoma in Enid, Okla.
Sweazy was a member of two NCAA Division II national championship wrestling teams and earned a degree in general education in his three years at UCO.
“I was a backup wrestler in three weights. But I was back in the sport I really loved,”  he said. “I really wanted to be a coach.”
Sweazy was taken down by life — cancer after returning to Chapman. In 2004, Sweazy was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma.
But he wasn’t pinned to the mat.
“I underwent treatment and was in remission on May 5, 2005,” he said. He worked for Russell Stover in Abilene for 18 months then another wrestling opportunity came knocking.
“I missed the sport and found out that Neosho County (Community College in Chanute) had an assistant coach opening,” Sweazy said. Starting the 2007-2008 season, Sweazy  served as NCCC assistant coach and helped improve not just the talent scale for the Panthers on the mat but also improvement by the NCCC wrestlers in the classroom.
“The Neosho County team finished third in the nation academically the second season I was there. Education is the focus for student athletes, then sports.”
After three years at NCCC, Sweazy moved into the high school ranks at Columbus. He said it was a great move for him as a coach. “I really enjoy the younger kids as they learn and progress in the sport, plus Columbus has such a great tradition.”
Columbus finished second in the Southeast Kansas League this season. Columbus has been the SEK wrestling champion or co-champion 18 times since 1971.
“That’s what I want to help build here in Iola. At the middle school level, we need to encourage all the kids to give the sport a try. I know the kid club is helping to promote the sport here in the area,” Sweazy said.
“I want Iola to leave the SEK on the right note. It’s going to be tough but I’m challenging our high school athletes to reach for the top three or four spots in the league. Pittsburg, Columbus, Chanute and Fort Scott are established powerhouses in the SEK.”
Kansas high school wrestling has followed the National Federation of State High School Associations’ changes in weight classes. The most significant changes in weight classes in 23 years takes effect this school year.
In April the NFHS approved an upward shift in the weight classes, beginning with the 103-pound class moving to 106 as the lowest class.
The 14 weight classes approved by the committee for 2011-12 are as follows: 106 (pounds), 113, 120, 126, 132, 138, 145, 152, 160, 170, 182, 195, 220 and 285.
Three middle weight classes — 145, 152 and 160 — were retained, although they are 7-8-9 in order now rather than 8-9-10. The largest weight class (285 pounds) remains unchanged as well.
“There’s some good to the changes. I don’t like the change in the lower weight because of maturity rates for kids. I would have left it at 103 pounds. But these weight classes are lining up more with those at the collegiate level which might translate into more high school wrestlers recruited for colleges,” Sweazy said.
“I’m just excited to be in Iola and having an opportunity to be a head coach. I’ve watched a lot of good head coaches in the programs I’ve been with and I’m ready.”
Sweazy worked for TFI Family Services in Chanute last year. He said he would like to obtain a para professional position in the Iola school district this year.
He and his wife, Kris, and their 15-month-old son, Lucas, live in Chanute, which is her hometown.

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