By Jeff Holt
Published December 16 in The Burg
Wrestling is one of those sports that often gets overlooked. They don't compete on Friday nights under the bright lights and the packed bleachers.
But Greg Leibach, in his sixth season as the Galesburg varsity wrestling coach, has his team off to a 6-1 overall record in dual meets. And at press time, senior Jeremiah Morris had a perfect 9-0 record in the 220-pound division.
Coach Leibach still took some time to answer a couple of questions about his team.
Q: How do you feel about your varsity team up to this point of the season?
LEIBACH: This is a really fun group to go compete with. Since we returned everyone from last year and our off-season was shorter than ever, it's like just picking up where we left off. We're leaning on our previous experience together and adding new energy from our newcomers. We've got some really exciting athletes of all varieties - quickness, power, technique, grit. And they thrive in the dual meet atmosphere. When they report to the table, they're excited to compete - not just for themselves, but also for the team behind them.
Q: What has been your team's most impressive match of the year and why?
LEIBACH: The Canton dual on opening night comes to mind first. Canton is a really skilled team and there was a great crowd in the fieldhouse which made for an exciting atmosphere. That dual featured at least three matchups between highly-ranked wrestlers from each side and we wrestled well enough to come out on top. After our two weeks of early season practice, that result showed our kids some reward for their investment.
Q: What goal (or goals) do you have for the rest of the season?
LEIBACH: Each of our wrestlers have set individual goals that will hopefully inspire their training from week to week... As a team, we have tried to stay focused on the next dual in front of us. We have been urgent with our practice time to take feedback from recent matches, make adjustments, and be a better version of ourselves each time out. If we can continue that upward trajectory, hopefully we'll look back at the end of the season and be proud of our accomplishments as a team.
Q: Can you talk about one wrestler that you have seen great improvement from this season?
LEIBACH: Lots of our wrestlers have impressed the coaching staff with their growth. Michael Patrick, Jeremiah Morris, and Gauge Shipp are three that were especially driven during our shortened off-season to improve their wrestling. All three are competing at new levels this season. That will hopefully become further evident with some great challenges ahead.
Q: How would you describe this year's group of senior wrestlers?
LEIBACH: Seniors: Alex Baughman, Santana Castellano, Braden Davis, Tyler Kemp, Jeremiah Morris, Jashon Parks, Ryne Straker, and Che Thomas. This is one of those "can't say enough good things" groups. They have been a large class since they were freshmen. They have persevered through different stages of development and I am very proud of the people/wrestlers they have become. I love the tone that they set for the rest of our team. And I love how much they love wrestling. They provide an example that will linger to positively impact our team even after they are graduated... I hope they get everything that they are striving for from their senior year of wrestling.
Q: Can you talk about any assistant coaches that you have and how they contribute to your program?
LEIBACH: Our other high school level coaches are Eric Vogel, Aaron Lipe, and Ryan Shipp. They are all deeply invested in Galesburg Wrestling with a great desire to see it thrive. Each brings different technical knowledge that collages together in a nice way for our kids. Each has an excitement for the sport that is contagious... Alejandro Varela and Kendrick Parks are doing a great job with our junior high team. They are developing the next wave of Silver Streaks.
Q: Looking at your team's roster, it seems like the numbers in your program are pretty solid. Your thoughts on that?
LEIBACH: Yes, this is the largest roster since I have been in the head coaching role. It takes a lot of discipline and physical and mental toughness to be a wrestler. I'm really excited that we have so many students that want to take on that challenge. I hope that they will find joy in the sport and benefits for their broader lives. Our current roster size creates energy in our practice room, provides variety in workout partners, and gives our lineup some depth... Additionally, girls wrestling is growing across the state. We have four great girls that are a part of this team - Hannah Almendarez, Emylee Miller, Andrea Morales, and Madison Powell. They are all sophomores with bright futures. We hope to see girls wrestling in Galesburg continue to grow around that group.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add about your team?
LEIBACH: Our home meet atmospheres have been really fun to compete in, especially the return to Thiel Gym. I'd encourage people in town, whether they've watched wrestling before or not, to come out to see this team. Again, they are an exciting group of athletes that really battle. We still have two home dates in December and two home dates in January. I hope that those who are able to come cheer the team will find some enjoyable entertainment.