Coach’s Candor: 09.21.11

Sports Staff

Editor’s Note: The Collegian recently caught up with head wrestling coach Jason Liles to talk about his program and rebuilding, the newcomers, and getting Nebraska to come to Brookings again.

What changes have you made since the end of last year, as far as improving the program goes?

We made a big step in the right direction by hiring our first full-time assistant coach in July, hiring Ty Eustice. We’re hoping that he brings that winning background and shares it with our wrestlers, so that they understand more of what kind of training mentality and lifestyle that is needed at this level to be successful.

I think that we have some kids that are ready for that. It takes a lot of hard work and we have numerous kids, some of our older guys and some of our younger kids that will embrace that.

You brought in some kids in the last recruiting class that are highly touted recruits. Do you expect that some of those newcomers will start right away?

Some will. Some of our newcomers will be in there right away. We brought in 15 new kids and some will get in there and others will redshirt. The ones that will wrestle will be out of necessity, to fill in some weight classes and give ourselves some depth and the others will be redshirted.

Are there some guys who will be returning that you think will have a big year, based on their work in the offseason?

I think the two guys that are the closest and have the ability is our 125-pounder, who was ranked during the preseason, Aaron Pickrel, who was one match away from the national tournament in his first two years. Dustin Walraven redshirted last year as a junior but he was also one match away in each of the first two years. He redshirted last year to gain a little more experience and those two guys are capable of raising their level of performance yet.

The highlight meet for SDSU this year is having Nebraska at Frost Arena on Dec. 17. How important is a match like that to get at home?

We’ve had a home and home with Nebraska for a while and this will be the third time that we’ve had them here recently. It’s just great for our program and they’re in the Big Ten now and that’s a tougher conference than the Big XII and it just solidifies our program that we can bring in a Big Ten opponent. How many of our athletic teams are able to bring in a opponent like that and obviously women’s basketball and soccer have had success with that but overall, it’s pretty tough for those programs to come here because of our location. We’re super pleased to have them here and that will be our endowment meet and to have a nationally ranked team in our gym for that meet can do great things for our program.

You publicly stated last year that it was a rebuilding year for your team. Do you feel that you guys are coming out of that? 

The reality of all of that is that we’re still rebuilding. We have a lot of young kids and we think that we’ll take a big step this year and be much improved and competitive against our opponents. Things don’t happen overnight to be successful at this level and we just want to keep improving and that is really important to the overall growth of our program.