Wrestling: With 2 national championships to his name, assistant comes to Princeton
For a team to be great, it must have great coaches. Without excellent leadership, even the most talented athletes can struggle to reach their potentials as individuals and as a unit. Throughout history, from Vince Lombardi’s Packers to Herb Brooks’ “Miracle on Ice” Olympic hockey team, the best teams have relied on great coaching.
With this philosophy in mind, head wrestling coach Chris Ayres added Joe Dubuque to the coaching staff this year. Dubuque enjoyed a sensational college career at Indiana, where he qualified for the NCAA tournament three times and won two NCAA titles in the 125-pound class.
Before arriving at Princeton, he spent the last two years as an assistant at his alma mater, after three years as an assistant at Hofstra. At both stops, Dubuque was wildly successful, coaching a total of nine All-Americas and helping his teams to four top-25 finishes.
The addition of Dubuque to the coaching staff, a move only made possible by significant alumni donations, signifies a major step forward in prestige for the Tigers.
“We have made some major progress in the past few years, and it was easy for Joe to see where we are headed as a program and accept the position,” Ayres said.
“One of the main reasons I took this position was the potential that Princeton wrestling has and the gains they have made under Chris Ayres,” Dubuque said.
“I feel there is no glass ceiling for this program,” he continued, “and I feel as our team matures and we continue to gain top-level recruits, this team will be competing with the best in the country very soon.”
For a Princeton squad that is still emerging from one of the program’s more unsuccessful periods, Dubuque adds an important dimension. He dominated the Big Ten, which Ayres called “the best wrestling conference in the country.”
Wrestling against some of the best competition in the country, Dubuque posted a 57-4 record over his final two years at Indiana. That included a 19-3 record against ranked opponents and back-to-back NCAA titles.
He brings to the team a “ ‘blue collar,’ wear-your-opponent-out style of wrestling” that is typical of a Big 10 wrestler, Ayres said. “[His] mentality and approach to training is unique and I think is a perfect addition to our program.”
In addition, he brings energy to a coaching staff that already has plenty of it. “I’d like to think I bring energy and enthusiasm, but with Chris and [assistant coach] Sean [Gray] I’ve come to realize that it is like adding gasoline to a fire when it comes to energy.”
Dubuque’s proven record as a winner on the biggest stage, however, is perhaps as important as his coaching style and approach.
“The crown jewel of our sport is an NCAA national title, and Coach Dubuque has two of those, so his words carry a little extra weight with the athletes,” Ayres said. “The direction he provides our wrestlers comes from the experience of actually winning a national title, so our athletes can feel reassured that there is no ‘guesswork’ on Coach Dubuque’s part.”
His presence will be especially crucial in helping the young Princeton team develop. Currently, a number of freshmen and sophomores have seen significant time on the mat in competition, with some veterans limited by injury. Dubuque’s leadership and training figure to be essential to helping the Tigers improve.
“Our team is going through some growing pains with youth, injuries and inexperience, but I think the most encouraging part is that every student-athlete is trying to get better every day,” Dubuque said. “Hopefully they are learning valuable lessons that will help them later in the season.”
Already, many of the freshmen have performed beyond their years, as freshman Scott Gibbons leads the team in victories.
As Princeton tries to climb to a level of national prominence, Dubuque’s addition will only help to legitimize the program and take it to new heights. Perhaps in the coming years, Dubuque will help some Tigers follow his path to NCAA success.
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