This article originally appeared in The Eagle's print edition on Oct. 21.
David Terao is back in the wrestling room. He’s working out with his team, meeting for practices and leading the other athletes the same way he did all of last season, and the same way he did in the months leading up to his All-American match at the NCAA Championships in March. But one thing is different. David Terao now coaches the athletes he once trained with.
After his fourth-place finish at the National Championships last spring in New York City, Terao captured the attention of wrestling fans around the country, spurring a flurry of tweets, GIFs and social media posts in support of him and his accomplishments on the wrestling mat. His success during the meet and throughout his five years as a college wrestler helped him earn several coaching job offers after graduation, but, after conversations with other teams and AU, Terao returned home to the wrestling room that helped him grow into a nationally recognized name.
“AU has done so much for me in all aspects of life,” Terao said. “I wanted to help continue to the program that has given me so much. We have a lot of young guys, half the team is freshman, so having me around helps a little bit. I’m the only one of the coaching staff that has been through [head coach] Teague [Moore]’s program, I’m close to their age, and can give them advice and stuff, so those are some of the main reasons why I stayed here versus going coaching somewhere else.”
Terao’s role this year comes in the form of volunteer coach, and the time he gives to the team must fit in between the time he spends as an administrative assistant at the Meltzer Group, an insurance and advisory company specializing in wealth management, and health and welfare services.
Head coach Teague Moore said he had hoped that either Terao or teammate and co-captain John Boyle would be able to return for a volunteer position after graduation, and Terao’s job worked well with the team’s schedule.
Terao’s performance in the EIWA conference and on the AU team makes him a great asset to the staff, Moore said, and he expects his former wrestler to be a successful coach now and in the future.
“He knows how AU works, he knows how the system works, he knows the coaching staff really well, so I think that’s going to be really valuable for him to move up in the coaching ranks really quickly,” Moore said.
For Terao, the decision to return to AU didn’t rest solely on returning to his alma mater. The Hawaii native said he wanted to come back to support and coach his younger brother Josh, who is a junior on the team.
“I definitely had coaching offers at different universities and such, but one of the main reasons I wanted to stay here is, of course, my brother, to keep an eye on him,” Terao said. “Not that he's doing the wrong things, but I want to see him have the same level of focus and success.”
Athletic Director Billy Walker agreed that Terao’s wrestling resume and performance on the national stage will make him a valuable contributor to the coaching staff through his abilities to train hard with the team and offer guidance on wrestling technique. Walker said he looks forward to watching David work with Josh on the mat.
In addition to Josh, the AU wrestling team also boasts 29 other athletes, a total that requires Moore’s coaching staff to hold several practices a day to accommodate the large group. Moore said the roster size is one of the biggest that he has had in his years’ coaching at AU, but he that he hopes to keep the roster numbers up because it allows the athletes to compete at a higher level with one another.
The large number of wrestlers on the team means Terao’s contributions are even more important, Moore said, as the young coach can take on a larger role during one of the smaller practices and work directly with the athletes to make sure they are completing the workout as instructed.
“Now that we can just give David control of certain aspects of our training regimen, it’s fun because he knows exactly what we are looking to get out of these workouts, the specific areas that we want to cover,” Moore said. “So it’s really nice that when we do hand it off to him, we know it’s going to get done, and it’s going to get done in the process that we’d like to see it go through.”
In his last year as an athlete, Terao was one of three athletes to represent AU at the NCAA Championships in Madison Square Garden. He served as captain, leading his team on and off the mat. Walker and Moore, both former wrestlers themselves, believe that Terao’s ability to mentor and coach the younger athletes will help the team accomplish its goal of sending not three, but four athletes to the NCAA tournament in 2017.
“They know David, and they’ve been friends with him,” Walker said. “He’s just another dude on the team, and they saw that he got all the way to the national semifinals. They know it can happen if you work hard and do the right things on and off the mat. You can get to the point, and now it’s tangible, and that's pretty neat.”