By Dave Dyer
---- — There are, says Springfield College wrestling coach Jason Holder, definite differences between heading up a program in college and high school.
The nuts and bolts of teaching technique at the college level, for example, is a bit more advanced, and more time must be devoted to monitoring athletes off the mat.
“Parents can be a burden in high school, but they also can help with things like diet and time management,” said the 34-year-old Holder, the former Timberlane standout from Danville. “In college, the head coach has to keep an eye on things like that.”
Despite the differences, and great experiences from wrestling for Carl Adams at Boston University and as an assistant with 21-year Springfield coach Daryl Arroyo, Holder retains a basic philosophy from his days with the Owls.
“I take an incredible amount from Timberlane,” said Holder, a two-time New England champion for the Owls. “What they do is incredible.
“The main thing is the overall system and how everyone expects to win, and they do everything to make it happen. That’s something we’re working for here.
“The other thing is that (head coach) Barry (Chooljian) and (assistant) Dan Donovan understand that you have to change with the times. They’re always looking into new programs, finding new ways of doing things. They have an open mind and are open to suggestions. Despite their success, they’re always evolving. That’s something I want to take away from them.”
Holder seems to be well on his way to following the model in his second year as head man at Springfield, a school with a great wrestling tradition. In his first year, the Pride had a 14-3 record and captured the New England Wrestling Association Duals and were ranked 21st nationally. Two of his wrestlers were All-Americans and Springfield came within a point of winning the NEWA title.
It was a good start, but only a start for Holder.
“We should be better than last year and we definitely want to be first (in Division 3) in New England,” said Holder. “Losing by a half-point last year (to Wesleyan) was tough to take. We want to be up there on top every year.”
Holder is a master technician who still enjoys getting on the mat and mixing it up, and he knows that a hands-on approach is important to being successful, but he also recognizes that attracting quality athletes is a priority.
“We really need to emphasize recruiting — it’s a huge part of the job,” said Holder. “You want to get the best kids you can, and the right kids. It takes a lot of time contacting them and getting all the background information you need on academics, character, interests, family ... everything.”
As a Division 3 school, Springfield can’t give scholarships, but Holder believes he has a lot to offer.
“You’ve got to sell what’s special about your school and I think we’ve got a lot that’s special,” he said. “We’re a small school, which a lot of kids like, we have a co-curriculum that educates the mind and body and we have a great tradition.
“A lot of people don’t know that Springfield College wrestling goes back 100 years and we’re fourth all time with 950 wins in any division, trailing just Iowa State, Oklahoma State and Oregon State. We’ve won the New England championship 10 of the last 16 years and never finished lower than fourth.”
Coaches must also sell themselves as well and Holder can point to his extensive background both as a standout wrestler and coach and that, as a professor (in the Department of Physical Education and Health Education) and coach at Springfield, he’s highly accessible.
“A lot of (Division 3) schools have a part-time coach who doesn’t teach or work at the school, and I think that’s a big advantage for me,” he said. “I’m here for the kids. I come in contact with them all the time and I have an open door policy, both for my students and the wrestlers. I think that’s something that kids value.
“I think we have a lot of advantages over other (New England Division 3) schools. Another is that we’re close to other states. We’re in New England, but we’re next to New York and we get a lot of recruits from New York and New Jersey. That really helps.”
But just as helpful is that Holder is still young and energetic as well as enthusiastic about what he’s doing.
“Coaching wrestling on the college level is a lot of work, but I love it,” he said. “For me, it’s a dream job. I go to work every day loving what I do.”
The Holder file Competitor Three-time state champion and two-time New England champion at Timberlane Four-year starter at Boston University, three years all-conference, NCAA Div. 1 national qualifier in 2003 Coach Two-year head coach at Plymouth State Four-year assistant at Springfield College for Daryl Arroyo, earning NEWA assistant Coach of Year in 2010-11 Second year as Springfield College head coach after team went 14-3 record and finished second in New England last year