STORM LAKE, Iowa – Mark Rial took a step back from coaching wrestling.
It didn’t take him long to realize he wanted to jump back in.
The former NCAA qualifier for the University of Northern Iowa and a two-time state champion at Fort Dodge is now fully engaged, once again, in college wrestling after accepting the head wrestling coach position at Buena Vista University on June 12.
“I was at Iowa Central (Community College) and this past fall I left there and I wanted to change it up, and I had an opportunity with a different type of business, different type of work,” he said. “I learned a lot in a short amount of time in the six, seven months I was doing that. As the year went on I realized I missed (coaching).
“It is a program that has had tradition in the past, and their alumni are passionate and excited about the program. I have always wanted to do this and I am getting to that point in my life that if I don’t take a shot now it might never happen.”
Rial takes over a Beaver program that went 1-9 and 0-8 in the Iowa Conference last season under the direction of Jeff Breese. BVU enjoyed incredible success under legendary coach Al Baxter from 1979-2004 as he amassed a record of 376-119-5, but since then the Beavers are 68-134.
Rial, who is the Greco-Roman coach for the cadet world team that will compete in Zagreb, Croatia this week, said the reaction he has received from BVU wrestling alumni has been “overwhelming and awesome to see” since he took over.
Rial was at a wrestling camp in Colorado last week giving him his first real chance to meet some of his wrestlers and for them to get to know him.
“There is a core that is there and I have been fortunate enough to meet some of the new recruits that are coming in, and I think there is a core group of guys that we can build off of,” he said.
Last year’s roster featured 14 underclassmen and five upperclassmen but did not have a qualifier for the national tournament. Rial knows recruiting will be key as he looks to have his team competing for a top-half finish in the challenging Iowa Conference.
“We want hard-nosed, hard-working kids that get the job done,” said Rial of the kind of wrestlers he is looking for. “As far as on the mat, just continuous wrestling, trying to score points, wrestling in every position. They have to hold themselves to a high standard.
“We want to be competitive in the Iowa Conference, definitely top half, and for the first year or two and hopefully get some guys on the stand at the national tournament.”
Rial said ideally he would have a roster of at least 50 percent Iowa wrestlers, but he also acknowledges that his time at Iowa Central as an assistant coach from 2010-2017 also gives him plenty of connections with high school and college coaches across the nation.
“There is a lot of competition in the state of Iowa for Iowa kids with all the programs in every division,” he said. “It is a tough task but something I think we can do.”
Rial said his initial team will be about 30 wrestlers strong and he hopes to build that roster with the help of Western Iowa wrestlers now and going forward.
“I think there is an opportunity and there is a lot of kids that people don’t know about that are in the area, and I like it because they are going to have a little chip on their shoulder and that is a good thing,” he said. “It is an opportunity to grow that.”