Wince looks to bolster Tiger wrestling program

Rick Peterson Jr.
Erik Wince

Familiarity with the Fort Hays State wrestling program and a love for the area prompted Erik Wince to make Hays his new destination in a diverse coaching career.

Wince, who was announced as FHSU coach last week, will look to utilize his experience and nationwide contacts to bolster an already successful program.

Wince comes to FHSU after serving as an assistant coach at NCAA Division I program American University in Washington, D.C., this past season. Before that, he started a program from scratch at Greensboro College (N.C)., an NCAA Division III program.

Wince’s wife, Hannah, is a Wilson native. Wince said he fell in love with the northwest Kansas area when the two got married in his wife’s hometown.

Wince has kept tabs on the Tiger program for the past several years after getting to know former Fort Hays wrestling coach Chas Thompson. He recalled catching a five-hour ride with Thompson from the junior duals in Oklahoma to Wilson.

“So I got to know Chas a little bit and then just started following the program ever since,” Wince said.

When Thompson, citing a desire to be closer to family, resigned as FHSU coach last May, Wince said he was immediately interested in the job.

“I was sitting at my computer one day about two months ago and the job posted,” Wince said. “I told my wife, ’Hey, the Fort Hays job’s open,’ and she got this smile on her face. I got to thinking about it, and I’m like, ’You know, that could be a good fit.’

“I’m in the big city here in D.C, and we’re country folks, me and my wife. We just talked about it and I applied and the rest is history. I love the area. I saw the success they had the last few years and I thought I could be a good fit.”

Last year, Wince helped American University produce four national qualifiers for the NCAA Division I championships. Two of the wrestlers earned All-America Honorable Mention status by the NWCA.

He helped start the Greensboro College wrestling program in 2015-16. In his four years at the helm, Wince coached one All-American, three conference champions, and multiple academic all-conference performers and individually ranked wrestlers.

“I’m all about the fundamentals and being so good at the basics that the rest will take care of itself,” Wince said. “I preach hard hand-fighting, aggressive style wrestling, stingy wrestling and not passing up easy points to go for big points — just chip away at guys and try to break them later in matches.

“I’m not a cookie-cutter coach. Everybody’s not going to be the same from 125 to heavyweight. But we’re all going to be very good at the basics.”

Wince said every program he’s been a part of has had strong reputations academically.

“It’s something that I have strong feelings about, that we’re going to be strong academically,” he said. “... I preach as much about character as I do wrestling in the room. There’s more to life than just wrestling. I want my teams and my athletes, when they graduate, to be productive members of society and be good husbands, fathers, whatever path they take after graduation.”

Wince, is a Lattimore, N.C., native who wrestled collegiately at Gardner-Webb. His coaching resume also includes two stints as an assistant at Davidson College in North Carolina.

He was the USA Wrestling State Chairman for North Carolina for seven years, and also served as the national team head coach for the Junior National Duals (2006), Cadet Nationals (2007) and Junior Nationals (2008-10). Wince served as coach of the North Carolina USA Wrestling National Teams from 2004-2016.

“From a coaching standpoint, I think that’s really what’s going to catapult this program is that I’ve been around and worked at so many different levels,” Wince said. “I think my scope of wrestling is pretty wide.

“When you get in that environment for that long, I got to know a lot of coaches and a lot of Midwest coaches, coaches that are going to be good assets for me out there in Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri. I’ve got a pretty wide web of contacts nationwide that I’m going to be hitting up pretty hard here.”

However, Wince said recruiting the area will take priority.

“You can’t let the kids in your own backyard get away, especially when there’s some talent in Kansas, particularly western Kansas,” Wince said. “Those guys have to be your top priority.”

“... Nobody wants to see local kids go out of state and represent somebody else, not that that’s a bad thing. But we want to keep those kids close to home, because in the long run it’s going to help everybody.”

He’s looking forward to the challenge of competing against tough conference foes like Nebraska-Kearney and Central Oklahoma.

“Those are great programs,” Wince said. “Those coaches have done a great job. I’d be lying if I said those guys didn’t have a target on their back at this point, because they’re at the top right now, and that’s where we want to be.

“Our goal is we want national champs, we want All-Americans, we want academic All-Americans. And we’re going to have to beat (the top programs) to do it.”

Wince has met with Fort Hays State wrestlers via Zoom.

“One of the things I told them to do was to send me goals, team goals, individual goals,” he said. “When we get back to campus my plan is to put it all on paper.

“I’ve got some great personalities apparently. I’ve got some characters. I’m getting really excited to meet some of these guys.”

Top returners for the Tigers include Mason Turner (125) and Aryus Jones (185). Both qualified for the national tournament last year before it was canceled because of the pandemic.

“There’s some hammers that are coming back that I’m really looking forwards to getting my hands on and getting them on the podium at the national tournament, God willing we have it,” Wince said.

Wince said he will tell his wrestlers to remain flexible amid the uncertainty caused by the pandemic.

“This whole time, they’ve got to be doing the right things to get their bodies ready and get healthy and big and strong,” he said. “When we get back and they say we can go, then we go. It could change day to day. You just never know with the way COVID is going.”

Wince plans to be in Hays by Aug. 7. He and his wife have two young daughters, Kersee and Sydney.