As the OLu wrestling program continues to gain traction, Coach Joe List continues to put the onus on growth as an individual as the key to success.
Besides wins in matches and taking down the opponent, there is one thing OLu’s wrestling team prides itself on above all else: being a family.
And this family starts with its head coach, Joe List.
The Orange Lutheran wrestling program just came off of one of its best seasons ever, but its work on the mat was not its most notable triumph, according to Coach List.
“It feels really good as a coach to have this kind of a season, but it makes me even more happy that my boys put forth the effort,” List said. “This year, they took a very strong, goal-oriented mind set and they worked hard to achieve those goals. From both an individual and team perspective, the wrestling program has shown much growth.”
Still in the early stages of rebuilding and growing the program, Coach List, in his third year with the program, is aware that the team had to start at the bottom and slowly crawling its way to the top.
“Building up the program has been a challenge. We basically had to start with nothing and create a respectable program. But the Lord has guided the team and I have loved every second of it.”
For List, rebuilding a program meant creating a culture, and this is what the program’s coaches have done. List and his assistants put a huge emphasis on compassion, respect, and positivity, and look for it in every one of the wrestlers.
“Positivity is huge for us,” List said. “This world is always going to be beating you down and for us as coaches, we just have to stay positive for our kids. At some point wrestling ends, so it is all about creating good character and learning life lessons to take with you.”
Coach List has not only taught the boys a lot about what it means to be a good wrestler, but also a good person.
“Every guy is dealing with their own things in life, so what myself and the rest of the coaches do is focus on that and walk with them on that journey. It is about the individual growth of each wrestler.”
In terms of this past season, the OLu wrestling team did a lot with a little. Normally, private school programs have over 30 wrestlers and public schools field programs that often exceed 60 wrestlers.
The Lancers fielded of 13 wrestlers this season, seven of which wrestled on the varsity level.
Still, OLu performed at a high level. The entire team qualified for CIF Varsity Team Duals and Individuals, and two wrestlers qualified for Varsity Masters. Not since 2008 has OLu had seven or more CIF qualifiers.
“Competing, let alone qualifying for CIF, is a huge accomplishment for us based on the size of our team,” List said.
In addition, every junior varsity and freshman wrestler placed in the top three at Trinity League Finals.
Because of the small size of the program, each coach is able to walk with them on their journey in life and in Christ, which is something that makes the program very special. Coaches make it a point to teach the kids how to not only be humble in victory, but how to deal with loss and adversity.
“We are a family and our place of worship is the mat,” List said. “These kids strive to be better students, athletes, and people. There is always going to be someone as good as you or maybe even better than you. We teach them how to deal with that.”
When asked what the next big step is for the program, Coach List pointed to involving more kids and making more of a splash in the Trinity League. Coming off of a big season means the bar is set higher, but the OLu wrestlers are more than capable of showing up to the challenge.
However, in the end, success for the wrestling team is not defined by wins in matches, but rather what kind of kids the program produces.
And as long as each wrestler in List’s program is clear on that notion, success is the only option.
“You can judge our program’s success by how many kids we send to Division 1 schools, but to me, it is not about that. Many kids show up wanting to take something from the program, versus wanting to give something. We want kids who want to give.”