Chris Otto is familiar with wrestling tradition.
He wrestled from 1991-95 at West Allis Central, a school rich in wrestling history, and returned to be a varsity assistant coach from 2001-07, helping guide two individuals to state championships and another to a state runner-up effort while the Bulldogs were firmly established as the team to beat in the Greater Metro Conference.
He’s also aware of the tradition built at Greenfield, where Otto is now in his first year as head coach of the Hustlin’ Hawks’ varsity wrestling program.
“I want to put my own identity on it, but make sure there is a good mesh with what was established here.,” Otto said. “Why fix it if it’s not broken?”
After last year, some could say the program is damaged, if not busted. Dan Jackson took over the reins from longtime coach Keith Morin, who retired, and the program’s participation numbers nearly dipped to single digits.
Otto, an assistant varsity football coach, said he’s got that back up to almost 50 and will be filling 13 of 14 weight classes when his team opens the season against Greendale in a Woodland Conference dual match at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
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“That was my number one goal, to get the numbers back up,” said Otto, who was also the head West Milwaukee Middle School coach from 2000-08. “Wrestling’s not a glamorous sport, but we got a lot of football players out for wrestling.
“Greenfield has a real strong wrestling tradition. When I stepped in here, I don’t think it’s what I’ve done but the traditions that were already in place. Keith Morin did a great job.”
The high school special education teacher and brother of athletic director Scott Otto is pleased to have longtime Morin assistant Kevin Murphy return after a one-year hiatus. Morin has attended a few practices as well and has been willing to help.
He said some of the wrestlers on this year’s team are back from a year ago, but he avoided singling anyone out.
“Names and stats are all new to me,” Otto said. “Some kids came back, but last year, not a lot of kids wrestled. The biggest thing we need to focus on is the team and work on establishing Greenfield wrestling again. We need to prove ourselves before we start getting accolades in the paper.”
Another new face
Otto isn’t the only new local varsity head coach at Greenfield or Whitnall high schools.
Former Whitnall assistant Steve Kujawa has taken over the Whitnall boys basketball program after Kent Kroupa retired this summer.
The Falcons went 22-3 a year ago and made it to the sectional semifinal with now-graduated guard Stephen Pelkofer leading the way. They are off to a 2-2 start this winter.
The remaining varsity sports teams have returning coaches:
- Longtime Whitnall wrestling coach John Quinlan, fresh off his coaches’ association hall of fame induction, has his Falcons poised to contend for the Woodland East title.
- Keith Larson, another longtime Whitnall coach, and his Falcons could be contenders in the Woodland East as well after going 12-12 in 2011-12. His team is 2-1 so far.
- Rob Graetz is back as the Greenfield girls basketball coach and hoping to improve on last year’s 3-20 record. The Hawks are 1-1.
- Jack Miller, longtime Greenfield softball coach, is back for his second season as the boys basketball coach. His team went 5-19 a year ago and picked up its first win of the 2012-13 season on Tuesday against Greendale after opening with a pair of close losses.
- Longtime coach Dale Schrank is the head of the Greenfield/Greendale co-op again this year after the team was 15th in the Division 1 state meet a year ago, and George Guddie is at the helm of the Whitnall boys swim program.