It’s a unique situation taking over a program during a global pandemic, but first-year Christian County wrestling coach Dee Leavell said it’s business as usual.
“It’s been a lot of meetings, that’s probably been the big difference,” Leavell said. “Other than that, everything is the same as usual. We’ve had restrictions, we’ve had to work in pods and stuff like that. But when we’ve had the opportunity to work, it’s been business as usual.”
Leavell takes over for Robert Burnham who just a year ago coached a state champion in Niko Bussell and led County to a second-place finish in the state.
Despite losing a lot to graduation, Leavell’s standards are still at the top.
“I definitely think another run at the state title is within reach — that’s our plan, that’s our goal,” Leavell said. “We lost a lot last year in the seniors that we had. … Those guys are hard to replace, but we return a good number of guys that went to the state tournament last year.”
Leavell was an assistant under Burnham so the transition from assistant to the head man has been a smooth one.
“I’ve got those head coaching duties that I have to take care of like some of the administration side, but one thing that I love about our staff is we find a way to make everything work,” he said. “I’ve been working with coach Burnham to kind of take some admin stuff off of my plate so I can focus on the things that I do good at and focus more on the team, the guys and the program and where we’re heading.
“A lot of it hasn’t changed. I was grateful and blessed that when I came home that the plan was for me to take over the program. After my first year, coach Burnham let me step up and kind of have the voice of the program and lead.”
The new coach said his guys were ready when the season got the green light in December.
“In those months there were a bunch of question marks,” he said. “One of the things we’ve been talking about lately is doing what champions do and focusing on the controllable and our effort and attitude. The decision to wrestle or not have a season, that’s not up to us. We can’t make that decision. If we could, we know the answer and we’d be wrestling. We’re just thankful for the opportunity.”
The only thing different is getting ready during a pandemic.
Despite all that comes with preparing for a season during a pandemic, Leavell likes where the Colonels are.
“We look great with all things considered,” he said. “The guys are doing a great job handling the shutdowns and the stopping and going. It’s been great to hear that some guys, in the short week that we’ve been off have been working out on their own. We return TyDarius Kelly at heavyweight, number one in the state. Austin Grant-Hall, number one in the state at 138, and we’ve got Gage Fowler at 120, the number three kid in the state. They’re all stepping up and leading the team.”
“We’ve got a lot of young guys that are waiting in the wings who have been behind guys and they haven’t been able to take that varsity spot,” Leavell said. “Now it’s their turn and they’re ready to take on that role and step up for the team.”
The first event of the season for Christian County is scheduled for Jan. 16.