Kirtland’s wrestling team opened the new season on Thursday with a new head coach and a lot of new faces in the lineup.
Longtime head coach Scott Francis stepped down at the end of last season after guiding the Hornets for 22 years. Dan Cosimi, one of Francis’ wrestlers, took over the program after moving up the ranks from volunteer assistant coach, JV coach, middle school coach, and president and founder of the youth program.
“It’s really exciting,” Cosimi said. “When you think of Kirtland wrestling, Scott Francis has to be the first name that comes up. I have never experienced a wrestling season without him since my freshman year in wrestling. He’s a great man and a great coach, and he did some amazing things at Kirtland. We hope to make him proud.”
Cosimi also spent time as a newspaper correspondent covering the sport, and he remembers something St. Edward coach Greg Urbas said to him that will impact the way Cosimi coaches his own wrestlers.
“I was covering the Ironman tournament back in 2007 or 2008, and one of his wrestlers had a big win over one of the (St. Paris) Graham or Blair (Academy) kids,” Cosimi said. “I came over to him and said, ‘Great job, coach,’ and he corrected me and said, ‘No, the kids did an awesome job,’ and that always stuck with me.”
Francis may have hung up his wrestling shoes, but his spirit will live on in the Kirtland wrestling room as Cosimi learned so much from his former coach and he plans to implement many of the same things in his coaching toolbox.
Cosimi learned a lot from Francis, but he also picked up some tips and tricks from other coaches in the area.
“I think as a wrestler, as a coach, and as a human being, we’re always learning,” Cosimi said. “I’ve definitely pulled things from many different coaches, and I’ll continue to do that. I’m evolving too, as well as my wrestlers. In a sport like wrestling, you can’t cheat the grind. If you do, you won’t be prepared when adversity hits.”
The Hornets will be very young in Cosimi’s first season, but the future certainly is bright.
“We have zero returning district points,” Cosimi said. “We have a bunch of great kids, we always do, and we have great families and a very supportive community and administration. The kids who stuck with it are the kids who want to be there and who want to work. I told them right off the bat, at our preseason meeting, this is the hardest thing you could choose to do in high school and it’s going to push you physically, mentally, and it’s going to push you emotionally. That’s why we love it, because it teaches you life lessons.”
With a young team, Cosimi expects to experience some growing pains this season and in the coming years, but he also trusts the process.
He’ll continue to work with the youth and middle school programs to build a solid foundation for the Hornets moving forward.
“With small schools, there is always a cyclical nature of the number of kids in the program,” he said. “We had to really, really good classes the last two years and now we’re at a part in our cycle where our team is just less experienced than it has been in the past and we have fewer wrestlers in the room. We have to grow the numbers and get the kids more experience to close that gap as quickly and as well as we can but there will be some growing pains, there’s no sugar-coating that.”
Kirtland travels to Madison on Saturday.