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The new man in charge

Alum Stutzman looks to make mark on UB’s wrestling team as new coach

Published: Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, December 3, 2013 18:12


Courtesy of UB Athletics

John Stutzman's high motor and intense personality led him to become a dominant 150-pound wrestler for the Bulls from 1995-98.

“I was grateful that [Beichner] gave me the opportunity to stay on and kind of hone my skills a little bit,” Stutzman said. “He kind of opened up my eyes on what it takes to be a college coach.”

Stutzman felt better about pursuing the opening after his former coach reached out to him. Beichner called Stutzman – who was then head coach at Bloomsburg – after his firing and told him he was the best candidate for his old job.

It has been difficult at times replacing Beichner. He understands Beichner left behind a winning legacy, and not all of the wrestling alumni agreed with Athletic Director Danny White’s decision to let him go. 

“It’s awkward sometimes because there are a lot of great alumni that loved Coach Beichner,” Stutzman said. “I love Coach Beichner. Some people didn’t want to see him go.”

Another difficult aspect of the job for Stutzman has been rebuilding the program in his own image. Beichner served as head coach for 17 years and left a lasting impact. Stutzman wishes to leave his own stamp and that starts with bringing the same mentality his teams at Bloomsburg had.

Stutzman learned how to make a small school with limited funding successful at Bloomsburg – a school that has fewer than 10,000 undergraduate students. The wrestling team had only 3.5 scholarships to disperse. Stutzman’s teams had to raise $100,000 every year just to compete. There was nothing glamorous about it. They crammed four people into a hotel room, but it was all about the wrestling.

Although UB is a larger school with more money, Stutzman wants his team to have the same mentality and focus solely on wrestling, not what comes along with it.

“It was a no-thrills program [at Bloomsburg],” Stutzman said. “But I think as wrestlers, we don’t care about the limelight stuff. That’s the same mentality we’re bringing here. No thrills. Of course it’s different. We got a bigger budget, but it’s going to be the same type of mentality for what we want to accomplish here.”

Stutzman also wants his team to bring energy and excitement to Alumni Arena, the same energy that he once brought to it by slamming his opponents to the mat. Stutzman will make his debut as head coach of the Bulls in Alumni Arena on Jan. 4 against Northern Iowa.

“We’re going to pack the place,” Stutzman said. “I want to make it a hostile environment for the other team coming in. I want to create an energy that people will want to come watch UB wrestling.”

Stutzman brought the training methods he learned overseas to Buffalo. His coaching has led to opportunities to travel all over the world, including Chechnya, Armenia, Romania, Poland and South Korea. He coached the New York Athletic Club at the USA Olympic Free Style Trials and served as head coach of USA Wrestling’s University World Team, which he coached in the Ramzan Kadirov Cup in Chechnya in 2009.

An additional challenge he faces is bringing the team together – Stutzman has to mix wrestlers who were with the Bulls last season, new wrestlers who transferred from Bloomsburg and a class of freshmen he did not recruit.

The freshmen are players Beichner recruited. Stutzman can relate to the wrestlers’ transition to a new coach, though, as he had to do it himself when he was a student-athlete.

Stutzman was recruited to transfer to UB from NCCC by then-Bulls head coach Charlie Cheney. But by the time Stutzman arrived in Buffalo, Cheney had been fired and replaced by Beichner.

“What these guys are right now is where I was,” Stutzman said. “I know I’ve got to earn their trust. These weren’t my guys when I got here, but they’re my guys now. They’re buying in and understanding what I want.”

Stutzman was described as a “workout guy” by his teammates during his time at Buffalo. Even if the team did not have a second training session on a particular day, Stutzman did.

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