On Oct. 16, Muhlenberg wrestling alum Jason McLean was named head wrestling coach, after the surprising resignation of previous head coach Shaun Lally in late September.
The wrestling squad of 26 student athletes have been routinely practicing since the start of the school year under Lally and since McLean’s arrival, the team’s practice routines and preparation for the upcoming season has not seen any substantial changes. With a particularly younger squad McLean noted that “We didn’t want to change too much. Wrestling is wrestling.” The main concentrations of the squad while preparing for this season are “intensity, organization, game planning, and working towards micro goals, as well as fine tuning individuals strong points.”
Coach McLean is ecstatic to work with assistant coaches Andrew Drake, Sonnieboy Blanco and Nick Sanko and praises their enthusiasm and dedication to growing the Muhlenberg wrestling program for this upcoming season and for the future. Coming into his new job McLean had known Coach Drake personally and was familiar with Coach Blanco’s and Coach Sanko’s successes on and off the mat. “I knew Coach Drake and was aware of his unbridled enthusiasm for the program. It is hard to top his dedication and commitment. Although I hadn’t met him, I was also aware of Sonnieboy’s accomplishments and overall journey, both on and off the mat. I am familiar with a few of his mentors and coaches. He comes from good stock and is going to be an integral part our success. The same thing goes for Coach Sanko, his reputation precedes him. These guys are special, they have dedicated themselves to a journey that is not the most glamorous or possibly appreciated. Selfless and committed would probably be accurate descriptions.”
“These guys here need a coach and leader that is going to help them conquer the mental part and get to the podium.” – Coach McLean
Meeting 26 new faces in a short-period of time is no easy task, but McLean is putting forth his best effort to get to know each member of the wrestling program individually. McLean confesses “I may mess up a name from time to time.” However, he remarks “The best way to get me remember is to let your body of work speak for itself. Each guy is putting their best efforts forward.” McLean has gotten to know members of the team outside of a wrestling environment. “I’ve sat down and ate with some, hung around the room after practice with others and walked across campus with a couple. Although we are a team, I’ve got to get to know each individually in order to hold us together and build a strong team.”
McLean has put forth several goals for the program and wants the program to have a strong showing during their first match at Kings College to show the Centennial Conference that they are no longer basement dwellers in the conference and in the region. McLean wants to build off the match at Kings and hopes that the program has another strong showing at Muhlenberg’s Scotty Wood Duals, as well as post a “winning record and get some guys ranked in region and possibly nationally,” while focusing on “improving as individuals and continuing to add depth and talent to the program.”
This is McLean’s first collegiate coaching job and after successfully re-establishing the wrestling program at New Brunswick High School in New Jersey, McLean sees many similarities to coaching the young and up and coming Muhlenberg squad and is looking to share his coaching philosophies with the Muhlenberg squad. “I started the program at New Brunswick HS so I knew every little detail or had to learn on the fly. I have had to pay attention to little things that can impede or allow for success. I have had to keep a positive attitude at the worst times because my team depended on me and I wanted them to stay focused and positive. These guys here need a coach and leader that is going to help them conquer the mental part and get to the podium.” McLean also prides himself on focusing on the team’s prosperity away from competition. At New Brunswick McLean exclaims that he was “a stickler about academics.” He will also “hold our Mules responsible for their diets, work ethic, and decisions on and off the mats. Although that their distinct differences from the high school and college level, such as more travel, less weight classes and stiffer competition,” McLean feels that “for me there are more similarities than differences.”
“We didn’t want to change too much. Wrestling is wrestling.” – Coach McLean
As an accomplished Muhlenberg wrestling alum, McLean is beyond excited to return to Muhlenberg and take over the wrestling program, ultimately hoping to bring the program to a higher level. “There is a little bit of welcomed pressure that I am excited for. This is an opportunity to take Muhlenberg Wrestling to new heights and expand the overall program. There’s a serious amount of work involved and we will have some hiccups. I welcome the challenge and am committed to make Muhlenberg a relevant part of the national wrestling scene. My emotions got the best of me when Corey (Goff) made me aware that I’d be the next head coach at Muhlenberg. Oddly enough, I was excited to be a Mule again.” McLean and the coaching staff’s dedication to growing the wrestling program ensures that the Mules will have a successful season and will continue to make progress as a program in the future. McLean’s experience both as a Muhlenberg student-athlete and as a coach will be beneficial to the program.