Two distinctly different pictures emerge from the Hickman sidelines during the Kewpies’ home wrestling meets.
There is head coach J.D. Coffman: red-faced, hands cupped around his mouth, intense, pacing behind the bench, shouting encouragement and coaching instructions, clapping his hands, whistling, always positive.
Then there is assistant coach Joe Collier: silent, focused, leaning forward on two chairs, looking like the “Thinking Man”, sometimes sitting, sometimes standing. When the heavyweights come up, his pupils, he rises, arms folded, watching, instructing, intent on picking up the little things, nuances from each wrestler’s match.
Collier didn’t think he’d like it as much as does. As a high schooler wrestling and playing football in Florida and Georgia, Collier said he dreaded practice. Now, ironically, he can’t wait for 3:30 p.m. to roll around.
“I love practice, love the people I work with,” he said, smiling. “So, it’s not really a problem for me to get up and get pumped for practice.”
Collier, in his second season with the program, is an interactive coach. He leads by example. Everyday at practice, he straps on his old wrestling shoes, and shows, rather than tells the wrestlers how to wrestle.
“I feel like if they see me doing it, they’ll work harder,” he said. “It’s all about being a role model.”
There he is, at the end of practice, dripping sweat, running the end-of-the-practice sprints alongside heavyweight sophomore Spencer McGowan. He’s in McGowan’s ear, urging him on, challenging him.
There he is, playing around after practice, tossing around a wrestler who challenged his coach to a playful match.
There he is, smiling, happy to be in the dark, dank basement of Stephens College.
Collier was there Tuesday night, when the Kewpies successfully defended their turf, beating rival Helias 39-30. Pins by junior Tommy Goran (160 pounds) and sophomore Alex Ross (189), in addition to dominating wins by Drae Cox at 145 pounds brothers Vince (103), Tony (119) and KC (125) Pescaglia led the Kewpies.
Ross, Collier’s nephew was introduced to the sport by his uncle.
“He’s always teaching me new things,” Ross said. “He loves pushing you to be a better wrestler.”
Coffman appreciates having Collier around, especially considering the man’s size and strength. Collier stands 6-foot-2 and bench-presses 424 pounds. A former lineman for Westminster College in Fulton, he knows a thing or two about pushing people around.
“He’s a great worker with the kids, particularly the big guys,” Coffman said. “He takes a lot of the pressure off of me because he can work with the specifics of (heavyweight wrestling).”
Coffman also said as good as Collier is as a coach, he’s an even better person.
“He’s an easy-going person, easy to work with, does everything we ask him to do,” he said. “He’s always there to back me when I need somebody.”
Collier readily admits that he is still learning the ropes of coaching.
“I’m still learning myself, so it’s just fun for me,” he said. “We get paid for this, but I could do without the pay. I’d do it for free.”