AU wrestling looks ahead

The team left the NCAA championships with new goals, increased motivation

AU wrestling looks ahead

AU head wrestling coach Teague Moore claps for his team after a dual meet in Bender Arena. Moore said AU “started the dual season well and... finished the dual season well.”

Senior Jason Grimes, junior Jeric Kasunic and sohomore Josh Terao weren't supposed to be watching the finals of the 2017 NCAA Wrestling championships in St. Louis. In head coach Teague Moore's perfect world, all three athletes would have been back in their sweat suits, preparing for another session after Friday's competition.

Instead, Moore found himself answering questions about the future of the team and the positives that he saw from the tournament. AU would not have any All-Americans in 2017, but Moore kept his athletes in the arena. He wanted them to learn, even if they had to learn as spectators, rather than competitors.

“It is extremely motivation[al] when you’re a guy that you realize ‘hey, I can be out here wrestling in this round, but I’m not, I’m sitting back watching it.’ That can build a good fire inside of you,” Moore said.

Moore cited Terao’s success this year in the dual season as a direct product of a fire that started burning as soon as the younger Terao saw his brother and current assistant coach, David Terao, wrestle his way to All-American status in 2016. As a freshman, the younger Terao missed the tournament, but he came back two years later with a ranked seed.

“This season, he really transformed himself as a wrestler, put himself as one of the top guys at 125 pounds,” Moore said. “He’s here at the tournament trying to make noise. So we can see that just by the experience, you go home and use that as fire, good things can come out of it, and that’s what we hope to do with these guys now.”

And Terao will not be the only one heading back to training with new goals. Gage Curry, a 125-pound redshirt freshman for the Eagles, came to the tournament with several other AU wrestlers to support his teammates, but he left with new ideas and increased excitement about representing AU on the collegiate stage.

“I was really just focused on how everyone competes and what it takes to be at this level,” Curry said. “Next year, I’m just looking forward to competing in an AU singlet.”

Curry served as a training partner for Terao throughout the season, and in an emotional speech during the AU social gathering on Saturday afternoon, Terao recognized Curry for his effort this season. He said he wouldn’t be at the tournament without the hard training he put in every day with Curry, as well as the help from his coaches and, most notably, his All-American brother, David.

Terao’s new experience at the national tournament combined with David’s continued involvement with the program sets up AU well for solid development at the younger weights. Curry will look to step into the 125-pound position, and 14 other AU freshmen will also be battling for one of ten starting spots in the 2017-2018 season.

“We have a good group of guys that redshirted this year that we will be bringing into next year,” Moore said.

Although Moore struggled to speak positively about the team’s performance after Friday’s session, he discussed the team’s prospects for next year with excitement at the AU social event on Saturday afternoon.

Terao and Kasunic will return to the mats next season as NCAA veterans, and Moore hopes that they will continue to lead by example and guide the younger wrestlers toward the right mindset and work ethic.

Kasunic, a wrestler of few words but a leader for the team through his actions, expressed how meaningful the experience was for him to compete at the national championships, and while he lost his second consolation match on Friday morning, he shared his gratitude for the ability to compete.  Kasunic said he hopes to be back next year and plans to continue to chase more pins.

“This is what every wrestler works for,” Kasunic said. “This is the epitome of folkstyle wrestling. This is where everyone wants to be.”

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