The Gazette's Marc Morehouse ranks all 143 wins in Kirk Ferentz's Iowa head coaching tenure as Ferentz approaches the school record this fall.

Small College Sports

Ty Eustice returns to coaching at Minnesota State

After five years away from corner, former Hawkeye back in college ranks

Minnesota State-Mankato head coach Ty Eustice gives instructions to George Farmah as he wrestles Colorado St.-Pueblo’s Paul Garcia during their 133 lbs. quarterfinal match at the NCAA Division II Wrestling Championships at the U.S. Cellular Center in northeast Cedar Rapids on Friday, March 9, 2018. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Minnesota State-Mankato head coach Ty Eustice gives instructions to George Farmah as he wrestles Colorado St.-Pueblo’s Paul Garcia during their 133 lbs. quarterfinal match at the NCAA Division II Wrestling Championships at the U.S. Cellular Center in northeast Cedar Rapids on Friday, March 9, 2018. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Don’t call it a comeback.

Ty Eustice was never that far removed from coaching, even though he was a Camp Director and Executive Director for J Robinson Intensive Wrestling Camps the last five years. When a chance to jump back into the college coaching ranks, the two-time All-American and NCAA finalist for the University of Iowa couldn’t pass.

“I’m supposed to be coaching and I finally had to make the decision that you have to follow where you’re supposed to go,” said Eustice, who is in his first season back as an assistant at Minnesota State. “It’s funny. This is the fun stuff and this is exciting, but you missed the day-to-day grind of every day we’re going at 3:30 p.m., we have goals and things we need to work on. The direction and purpose every day is really what I miss.”

Eustice was in the corner for the Mavericks at the NCAA Division II Wrestling Championships on Friday at the U.S. Cellular Center. He helped guide Minnesota State to a 4-1 record in the opening session.

This marks his second stint with Minnesota State, serving as a graduate assistant to Mavericks head coach Jim Makovsky for two years. The opportunity was perfect for the Blue Earth, Minn., native.

“There are only so many opportunities,” Eustice said. “I grew up just down the road from there. I love Minnesota wrestling.

“Jim runs an awesome program and he does a great job. I want to be around people who are motivated. I know he’s really motivated. We work really well together, because we are on the same page.”

Eustice comes from a coaching family. His father, Jack, is a Hall of Fame high school coach, and brother, Luke, is the Director of Wrestling Operations at Iowa. He coached for six years at each NCAA level after his graduation from Iowa in 2006, including assistant stops at Cornell College and South Dakota State.

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Eustice was the head coach at Iowa Lakes Community College from 2009-2011, but picked the brain of Robinson, who was a longtime coach at the University of Minnesota.

“J was awesome to me and I think we talked more about coaching than probably anything, and leadership and developing kids,” Eustice said. “Those five years it wasn’t really like I was out of coaching. I was actually getting a new education I would call it.”

Interestingly, Eustice didn’t join the staff until October. He said he missed a crucial period in the preseason used to develop a rapport with the wrestlers, learning what makes them tick as people and connecting with them on a personal level. The transition has been easier because of his motivation to be back on the coaching staff.

“It’s really trying to develop trust with the guys,” Eustice said. “They have to know you care about them as people before they’re ever going to listen to you about wrestling. You miss some of that, but I jumped in right away. Just two feet in and go and get to work.”

Two Iowa preps qualified for the Mavericks. Fourth-ranked Zach Johnston, an ADM prep, reached the 174 quarterfinals. Former Waverly-Shell Rock prep Corey Abernathy had a late lead against California Baptist’s national finalist Nicholas Flegener, but fell 8-5.

Eustice said the most rewarding part of the job is watching wrestlers develop and progress, which is the biggest reason that attracts him to coaching.

“You see the growth they can go through when they apply themselves,” Eustice said. “Honestly, all the kids that are here have worked hard this year. It’s the kids that believe in themselves, their training and coaches are ultimately the ones getting their hands raised.”

Perfect for Parkside

Wisconsin-Parkside’s Nick Becker entered the national tournament as one of five unbeatens in the field. Becker remained perfect, improving to 22-0 this season. He opened with a 39-second pin of Augustana’s (S.D.) Lukas Poloncic and advanced to the 174-pound semifinal with a 16-5 major over Nebraska-Kearney’s Zach Stodden.

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Impressively, Becker has never lost for Rangers. The two-time national champion extended his win streak to 87 matches with the opening round victory. The redshirt senior transferred to Parkside from Central Michigan where he red-shirted and competed as a freshman.

Iowans in the field

Two former Iowa preps opened the national tournament with victories for out-of-state programs.

Nebraska-Kearney’s sixth-ranked Josh Portillo pinned Mercyhurst’s 12th-ranked Eric Bartos in 2:54 at 125 pounds. He followed it with a 9-5 victory over St. Cloud State’s former NCAA champion Brett Velasquez in the quarterfinal. Portillo was a three-time state champion for Clarion-Goldfield-Dows and red-shirted at South Dakota State last year.

He joined Minnesota State’s fourth-ranked 174-pounder Zach Johnston, a former ADM prep, and Upper Iowa’s Nick Baumler (197) as the only former Iowa preps to reach the quarterfinals. Both lost their second match.

l Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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