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Beuglas, Gassman guide first-year wrestling programs

Photo by Brandon Brigman

Photo by Brandon Brigman

Jim Gassman was a little nervous before Mountain View's first-ever home wrestling match against North Hall last month.

The former Collins Hill assistant had been matside for hundreds of matches over the years, but never as a head coach. And this wasn't just any match. It was the first one ever for the first-year school.

But that's not what had Gassman nervous. It was that morning when some of his wrestlers missed making weight. Oh, the joys of starting a new program.

"That's just part of being a new program. They don't know about the team commitment," Gassman said. "I had to laugh about it. It's the first dual of the season and I have to take it for what it is. We're a new program and they have to learn."

For the last 13 years, Collins Hill and Parkview have had a firm grip as the top wrestling programs in Gwinnett County.

During that span, Tom Beuglas served as an assistant and later as a head coach at Parkview, while Gassman was an assistant at Collins Hill.

This fall, the duo started programs of their own at first-year schools in Gwinnett County. Beuglas left Parkview after 16 years to become the head coach at Archer, while Gassman left his alma mater to take his first head coaching job at Mountain View.

Gassman is no stranger to new schools, though. His last two years of high school were the first two at Collins Hill in the mid-1990s.

"I knew about a lot of what went on, now I have to make sure it happens," Gassman said.

Both coaches learned from two of state's best coaches at their previous stops -- Beuglas under Dennis Stromie, who left Parkview to start the West Forsyth program, and Gassman under Cliff Ramos. Stromie and Ramos are members of the Georgia Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

"Dennis gave me some advice on what he did at West Forsyth," Beuglas said. "I want them to trust me, grow, and get better and have some success."

"He's the guy to go to in the state and I'm glad he's someone I can pick up and call," Gassman said of Ramos. "He's prepared me real well for where I am now."

Beuglas has surrounded himself with some familiar faces. Kyle McKee, a captain on the Panthers' 2004 state championship team, is in his first season as a coach after wrestling four seasons at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga.

"That was my main priority," Beuglas said of McKee. "His coach was Terry Brands at UTC, who is the U.S. Olympic coach now, so he probably knows more than I do at this point."

Beuglas' father Tom is an assistant after serving the same role at Parkview the last five seasons. Frank Castaneda runs the middle school and youth wrestling program after doing the same for Parkview the last five years.

Gassman's staff features former Shiloh and Grayson head coach Steve West, who also is a member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. Randy Bortles has experience as a coach and official and Darryl Colley wrestled at Stephenson High School. Gary Shaefer, the President of the Atlanta Takedown Association, serves as the booster club president.

"(Coach West) has a lot of experience and I'm able to bounce ideas off him," Gassman said.

Beuglas and Gassman have put a strong emphasis on building youth and middle school programs and they've had pretty good numbers in their high school programs. Mountain View has about 38 wrestlers, including four with varsity experience who transferred from other schools, and Archer has 28 freshmen and four juniors with JV experience.

The toughest part for both coaches has been the little things for a new program, like ordering the right number of uniforms and supplies, finding managers to score the matches and people to work the concession stands, building a booster club and educating parents about wrestling.

"I've enjoyed the challenge," Beuglas said.

The biggest contrast in starting their programs is in the schedule. Mountain View has wrestled an entire varsity schedule, while Archer has competed in junior varsity tournaments early in the season and varsity competition the second half.

"I don't have grand illusions of winning state this year, but in a few years we'll be pretty good," Beuglas said.

The two programs will see each other at various tournaments throughout the season, including Jan. 22 at Mountain View. It will be the last home dual of the season and hopefully the nerves will be gone for Gassman. His wrestlers making weight will help.

It will be a dual both programs want to win as first-year programs have become natural rivals.

"I think that's implied because we're both two new schools," Gassman said. "The athletic director told me I have to pay a fine if we lose to Archer. It adds a little bit to the season."