Finding success on the sidelines
Former wrestler Jeric Kasunic makes the transition from student-athlete to coach
Before graduating from AU last May, Jeric Kasunic had an idea of what his future was going to be like. He was going to use his undergraduate business degree and find a job in finance.
That is, until he got an offer from his former wrestling head coach, Teague Moore, to be his assistant.
Kasunic wasn’t afraid of the change, and quickly transitioned from being an athlete under Moore’s guidance to working alongside him. Moore wasn’t anxious, either. He knew that Kasunic would make a great coach based on the characteristics he saw in him during his career at AU.
“He understands what the philosophy of the program is,” Moore said. “He understands the responsibilities and the academics of the guys on the team. He understands the goals that we are trying to accomplish.”
While Moore knew that Kasunic would be a great teacher of the sport, he also knew there would be a transition for him to move over to the administrative side.
“The paperwork, the responsibilities, you have to make sure get done before stepping on the mat to start teaching the sport,” Moore said. “I figured there would be a changeover for him, but nothing I was too concerned about.”
There were obviously some aspects that took Kasunic time to get used to since his period between being a part of the team as a wrestler to be a part of the team as a coach was only a few months.
“The most difficult part of it was being a part of the team a couple months ago to being in a role of coach now,” Kasunic said.
Since he had pre-existing relationships with the wrestlers on the team, his ability to separate the relationships from being a good coach was crucial. Kasunic has been able to maintain the existing relationships with his former teammates while transitioning into a coaching role, he said.
Despite his long tenure at AU, Moore said he continues to learn from all his coaches, including Kasunic, who’s serving as a corner coach in his first year. He is listening to how Kasunic interacts with the athletes and giving him the necessary advice to help him become a better coach.
Kasunic feels the same way, continuing to learn from his former coach, and has taken the information to become a better coach, he said.
Even though he is still involved in wrestling as a coach, Kasunic struggles with having to tell the wrestlers what to do instead of him being on the mat doing it himself.
“The most frustrating part about coaching would be just sitting back watching as opposed to being on the mat doing it myself,” Kasunic said.
Despite some of the struggles of being a coach instead of an athlete, Kasunic loves being a wrestling coach and wouldn’t want that to change, he said.
Over their six-year relationship, both Moore and Kasunic have been able to learn from one another both as wrestlers and as people. Kasunic was able to develop from an average wrestler in college to a highly-ranked college wrestler, defeating top opponents and qualifying twice for the NCAA tournament as a junior and senior. He finished his wrestling career tied for sixth all-time in victories (102) and second all-time in pins (40) at AU.
Beyond success on the mat, Moore has been able to instill the belief into his wrestlers that academics are just as important as wrestling. The team consistently produces one of the highest average GPAs in Division I wrestling, The Eagle previously reported.
“You’ve got to understand what the institution is about, and then go out and seek the right guy,” Moore said in a 2015 interview about the team’s academic achievements. “I look for recruits that are going to hold their academic standards at the same level as their wrestling. We want guys who are going to be national champions and All-Americans, we also want to have the highest GPA in college wrestling.”
That idea was something that motivated Kasunic to do better in school and focus on more than just wrestling and all the training that went with it. By his senior season, Kasunic was able to become an Academic All-American by putting forth time and effort both on and off the mat.
“When I got into college, I struggled academically,” Kasunic said. “Just coming through the program, it really shaped who I am today and paved the way for what I’m going to do with my future.”
Moore believed that all of the characteristics that Kasunic has learned from working with him allowed him to be a perfect fit in the coaching staff. He has been able to help AU wrestling in many ways, greatly because of his unique relationship with Moore and his existing knowledge of the program and of wrestling.
“Some of the experiences that he had while at AU really helped grow him as a person, and to see that change over four years was fun,” Moore said. “When the time came to fill a coaching position, we felt that he was perfect for what we needed.”
This article originally appeared in The Eagle's March 2019 print edition.