Mentzer picked to take over Chambersburg wrestling
Wrestling is a sport with a lot of close decisions.
This one was not.
Matt Mentzer will be recommended as the man to replace Doug Rine as the head coach of the Chambersburg wrestling team. That decision will be made final at some point by the school board, but the fact that Mentzer was selected is not a surprise.
For the last seven years, he was Rine's assistant coach and the two combined to raise the program to new heights – Rine as the administrator and motivator and Mentzer as the technical instructor and energetic motivator.
That Rine, who resigned in April after 20 years at the Trojan helm, did his job so well is Mentzer's challenge.
"My biggest concern is all the paperwork I'll have to do as the head coach," Mentzer said. "What head coaches in wrestling have to do, with the weight loss programs and reporting all the results, is a lot of work and Doug did that so well. He's more savvy than I am with technology ... maybe I'll have to call in a favor from him on that."
Perhaps in a match against a computer Mentzer might not feel comfortable, but there is no debating his wrestling background.
After a solid high school career at Big Spring, Mentzer wrestled in Division I before transfering to Shippensburg University, where he won 86 matches and was an NCAA Division II All-American in 1995 and '96. He was also an assistant coach for the Raiders.
Chambersburg athletic director Jeremy Flores said, "Matt was the best choice, without a doubt. He has personal experience with wrestling in high school and college and he's got the coaching experience, and that will be beneficial to the kids.
"He's been in the room working with the kids, teaching techniques and skills. Coach Rine talked about how Matt sees things (strategies, etc.) that other coaches don't see right away."
Rine said, "He has an outstanding grasp of the sport and how to break down different aspects of the sport from a technical standpoint. He has a technical grasp of wrestling that few people possess and he is able to apply it to different wrestlers' styles and physical attributes."
Not that he needed reassurance, but Flores got some anyway.
"I happened to be talking with a number of other ADs," he said, "and when they heard me say we were going to hire Matt, they all said that we've got a great coach there."
Mentzer is not shying away from setting lofty goals for the Trojans.
"I think we can win a District 3 team title and I think we have the potential to win a state title," he said. "Obviously, we need to keep improving what Doug and I have built the last seven years. We've had some very good kids the past few years, and some of the kids we have and have coming up could be at that level.
"To be winning in district and state team tournaments you need at least that many really solid guys, and you also need others who have experience and understand wrestling."
The Trojans had four wrestlers with at least 30 wins last year and three return next season. Mentzer said there is a group of about five quality kids who will be ninth-graders next year, and some are in the heavier weights where Chambersburg could use some help.
There are two areas in which Mentzer believes an effort must be made to improve: 1.) keeping more kids involved in the sport, and 2.) getting more football players onto the team.
The Trojans had only 18 kids on the roster last year, the team's lowest number in many years.
Mentzer, who is a teacher at Fayetteville Elementary, said, "We have to be able to retain kids who start wrestling at the elementary level, and get them into the middle school program. We have a good coach there in Craig Hight, and that's a help. But when kids go from fifth to sixth grade, the communications get harder with the kids and parents, and we've got to work on that."
Football players will be a target for Mentzer, who believes it will help both programs.
"I know it will benefit wrestling if we can get some of those kids out, especially the offensive linemen," he said. "They do the same kind of skills in football as in wrestling – one-on-one battles, hand fighting, balance. You'd be surprised at how many NFL players have a wrestling background."
Mentzer said he is looking to bring in some young assistant coaches who can work on the mat with the Trojans.
"We have a couple of guys now helping with the youth program who have good credentials," he said.
Flores said, "I think it'll be great for the program to have a young and energetic coach like Matt. It's hard to replace somebody like Doug, but having Matt take over might help us take it to the next level."
"Matt has an outstanding rapport with wrestlers on the team and the wrestlers have a great deal of respect for him," Rine said. "I am very happy to hand it over to the one person that I feel is the most competent person to take it over. I'll enjoy watching him build the program from here."