InterMat recently went one-on-one with Shuck.
You coached three seasons at Heidelberg and then were hired by UW-Whitewater in August. What has been the biggest change going from Heidelberg to UW-Whitewater?
Shuck: Heidelberg is a private school. Whitewater is a state school. So with that comes different procedures. There's just a little different way a state system is run compared to a private system. In terms of wrestling, there isn't a whole lot of change, other than the clientele. We definitely have an extremely talented team right now. At Heidelberg we felt like were building to get to that. I'm coming into a pretty unique situation. I don't think a lot of coaches experience what I have. Usually coaches come in and say they're rebuilding. For me it's like, we're going to try not mess this up because we have a real talented team.
Ned Shuck is in his first season as UW-Whiteater's coach (Photo/Michael McLoone, UW-Whitewater Athletics)Was it difficult getting your team to buy in to your coaching philosophies and style?
Shuck: I wouldn't say it was difficult. What really helped in that whole process is that these guys are serious about winning a national championship. When you have a team that really wants to win and knows it's going to take and hard work in order to do that, I think you're willing to be stretched a little bit compared to a team that doesn't have those expectations. I have been really impressed with how they have been able to respond to my coaching style, the way we run the room. I challenge them in some ways off the mat that maybe they haven't been challenged before, and so far they have been stepping up and doing a real good job.
When you see wrestlers come into college as freshmen, where do they struggle the most?
Shuck: I think the easy answer to that is top and bottom. But for me it's more fundamentals. Fundamentals sometimes go by the wayside. I see our guys struggling sometimes with positions they had success in during their high school careers. For me it's about teaching them to keep what they do really well -- we wouldn't want to change everything -- but how to use it and still have the fundamental aspect in the picture. For me I think that's the biggest thing I see ... Just not an understanding of fundamental positions sometimes.
You wrestled collegiately at the University of Iowa. How has that experience helped you as a coach?
Shuck: I don't even know how to quantify it. It's ridiculous. I just think about all the coaches I had there ... Tom Brands, Dan Gable, Jim Zalesky, Lincoln McIlravy, Bill Zadick, Mike Zadick. I don't know how I could have replaced that. Not to mention all the multiple-time national champions we had. You're just surrounded on a daily basis with some of the wrestling minds in the country and world ... You can't help but get better and understand the sport even more and what it takes to win at a high level. I think I understand that. I know how to train and peak athletes. I think that's some of the stuff I picked up from them in observation. When I coached in high school I used to go down and watch Iowa train for the Big Tens and nationals, just do little things like that ... be a student of the sport. Watching them wrestle now I still pick up from them. It's exponential. It will continue to be because things I learn as a coach stem from that background and philosophy.
When you look back on your own competitive career as a wrestler, do you have any regrets?
Shuck: I had goals that I obviously didn't achieve. I wouldn't consider myself to be a successful college wrestler by any means, and that's disappointing. It's not something I talk about a lot. It's hard to talk about because I didn't reach my goals. In terms of regrets, I really believe that I was one of the hardest working guys there, even at Iowa. I was a guy that was putting in a lot of time, a lot of effort, a lot of energy, listening to coaches, doing those things ... even when you do those things, wrestling is a great sport in that there are no guarantees. Just because you do everything right, it doesn't mean it's going to happen. It wasn't in God's plan for me. So I don't know if regrets is the right word. I have a lot of disappointments for sure. All that stuff has helped me get to where I am now in my coaching career. Hopefully the guys I work with now don't have to experience the disappointment that I did.
Ned Shuck served as head wrestling coach at Heidelberg for three seasons prior to arriving at UW-Whitewater (Photo/Kyle Youngblood)Having spent time in Division I as a wrestler and now Division III as a coach, what do you see as the biggest difference between Division I and Division III wrestling?
Shuck: I think just the intensity level. I'm not saying Division III isn't as intense. That's not what I'm saying. I think just the intensity of your lifestyle is different in Division I. There are a lot of little things, but that's what comes to mind.
The UW-Whitewater roster is comprised mostly of Wisconsin and Illinois natives. Do you expect that trend to continue?
Shuck: I think maybe initially that will continue. Obviously, we would like to expand a little bit with recruiting. Having my ties to Minnesota, we would like to get in there a little bit, and having a little background in Iowa I think we can get in there too. There are a lot of opportunities with schools in the Midwest, so sometimes it's tough to get kids to travel. When you look at the Midwest, Whitewater is head and shoulders above the other schools cost-wise. It's really affordable, especially compared to the private schools. When you look at everything the school offers, it's worth it to travel and be a part of a championship program. I think kids will start to see that. So I think in the near future we'll start seeing states that haven't been represented on our roster be represented.
Your 197-pounder Shane Siefert is a two-time All-American and currently ranked No. 1 in the nation. What's going to be the key for him to finish on top of the podium in March?
Shuck: Shane is a really talented kid. He definitely has what it takes to win it. I think for him the key is staying hungry for it ... not being satisfied, remembering what it felt like to lose in the last second in the national finals. That's not a good feeling. If he can remember that I don't think there will be any issues. If he can remember that and help keep him motivated to keep training hard and living a disciplined life, then he's going to be in good place in March. So that's what we're shooting for.
UW-Whitewater won the Messiah Petrofes Invitational earlier this season. (Photo/Messiah College Sports Information)When you look at your lineup, is your team better built for dual meets or tournaments?
Shuck: That's a little tough to say. We have been able to have a lot of success in our dual meets. The National Duals will be a good measure for that. Obviously, we feel really confident in both. We feel tournament-wise we have some guys that can go really deep into a tournament and score a lot of points, not just advancement points but also bonus points along the way. In dual meets I think we have the same potential in terms of scoring bonus points, and sometimes that's going to be the big difference.
Your program is currently ranked No. 1 in Division III. Do you feel added pressure because of that No. 1 ranking?
Shuck: I enjoy it. Last year we had six national championships here at Whitewater ... men's and women's basketball, wheelchair basketball, gymnastics, football and baseball. So when I'm rubbing shoulders amongst my colleagues here, they're all shooting to win national championships, and they've done it. For me I enjoy that as opposed to looking at it negatively and saying, 'Oh man, they're expecting me to win. What's going to happen if we don't win?' I expect to win. Our team expects to win. Everybody expects to win. I like everybody being on the same page that way.
For a long time the Division III wrestling landscape has been dominated by Wartburg and Augsburg. The programs have won every national wrestling title in Division III since 1995. That's so long that there are a lot of people that don't think any other program can win it. How do you overcome that challenge of getting past the 'Burgs?
Shuck: It is a challenge. Any time you're the first it's kind of cool. We feel like we're going to be the first to break that trend. Those programs have done such a great job consistently through the years that is a tough feat to do. We know that past performances don't guarantee future performances. We're excited for that challenge. It's something our guys look to. We can't get too wrapped up in it. We can't control what they're doing. We can't control how they're training. We just need to take care of us, and that's going to give us the best chance to beat Augsburg and Wartburg for the first time in a long time.
Have you thought about what it's going to take to finish with a national title this season in terms of All-Americans and national finalists or champions?
Shuck: One of things I just focus on is what each kid needs. We need everybody. It's not just the 10 guys who are starters ... It's everybody fighting. You never know what's going to happen. We could have an injury and then someone has to step up. So you're looking at every kid in the room ... What does this kid need to do to become an All-American? So that's kind of my focus, instead of looking at it like we need five All-Americans, at least two of them need to be champs. I'm not necessarily a numbers guy who looks at like that. I'm sure there are a lot of people that are really good at that. It would probably take me a long time to figure it out, so maybe that's why I don't focus on it too much. We just try to focus on how to get each kid to where they need to be.
This story also appears in the December 26 issue of The Guillotine. The Guillotine has been covering wrestling in Minnesota since 1971. Its mission is to report and promote wrestling at all levels -- from youth and high school wrestling to college and international level wrestling. Subscribe to The Guillotine.