Brett Means isn’t changing a thing. He has built the Goddard wrestling program up from the ground and has won four of the last six Class 6A State Championships. Now, it will be going to 5A because of Eisenhower opening its doors.
“The wrestling is so much deeper at the 5A level,” Means said. “We won’t be the favorite anymore, but we probably weren’t going to be the favorite, anyway.”
Although Goddard will be in 5A competing against teams with deeper rosters than 6A, it still looks bright that the team will never get crushed or be outmatched and will be in the conversation to win every match, dual or tournament.
Goddard wrestling is a name Means has made sure becomes synonymous with success. He knows his team will still compete, as it is returning several state placers from last year’s state runner-up team.
Means had around 85 wrestlers come out on the first day of practice for the past few years. This coming school year, he’s looking at around 50 kids for the first day of practice.
“(The split) has to hurt the wrestling program,” Means said. “We have less depth now. We lost three seniors and a couple juniors, several starters.”
Feeling sorry for himself is the last thing on Means’ mind. His numbers are being cut almost in half, his wrestlers won’t have the same quality of practice partners and his team is looking at a higher level of competition than in the past.
“Every (sport) is in the same boat,” Means said. “I’m not changing the way I coach just because this is going to be challenging.”
If anything, it will benefit Means and his coaching staff as they will be able to manage a practice room with less kids easily and more efficiently.
He realizes the skill that Goddard has produced for his sport, though.
“We’re spoiled here,” Means said. “I know it. We used to have a couple state champions on our team every year, but not anymore. I think we’ll be top five in the state.”
It’s not all bad for Goddard wrestling. Less kids means more attention paid to each athlete, which will be crucial with a less experienced roster.
“I don’t want to say that our quality is watered down,” Means said. “But it’s going to be tough to have the same quality as before.”
The program has some solid middle school-age wrestlers coming into the school that Means and his staff are looking forward to coaching, but he still has to remind himself that his numbers are going to be down a substantial amount.
Means said that just by looking at the guys coming into his program, the only weight class that would suffer is the heavyweights.
“Our big guys are going to suffer because of the split,” he said. “But everyone else should have good partners. There will be some growing pains, but at the end of the day, we’ll be fine.”
He compared his situation to that of Andover’s 10 years ago, when Andover Central started up.
“At least more kids will have the chance to wrestle on varsity,” Means said. “Between the two schools, you go from offering 14 varsity spots to 28.”
The move down to 5A comes with a very unique set of challenges, challenges Goddard wrestling has never faced before.
Check back tomorrow for the third part in the "A District Divided" series where a veteran coach looks to build something out of nothing.