Karl Voeck knelt on a mat which teaching the wrestlers on the Monona Grove/McFarland co-op about the nuances of the sport and how they could wind up being successful.
Team members listened intently and seemed to soak up his charisma and excitement for a sport that he has cherished for a long time.
Voeck, who replaced co-coach Randy Becker before the season, knows from experience how to motivate young men and build their character through wrestling, which has had a major impact on his life.
A native of Madison and a 2000 graduate of Madison Memorial High School, Voeck entered the Air Force for four years, and competed as a wrestler in the World Class Athlete program for about two months.
After his hitch in the service, he returned home to wrestle on the UW-Whitewater team. He was an All-American and said he learned about wrestling from some of the best coaches in NCAA Division III before earning his degree in occupational safety and coaching in 2009.
While in college, he had the chance to travel to Russia and compete against that country’s club wrestlers. He won five of seven matches before hurting his knee.
“In Russia, it’s like a national sport,” Voeck said. “They treat you like a celebrity over there, which is pretty cool.”
Voeck ended his UW-Whitewater career with 88 wins. He was named to the WIAC All-Conference first team.
As for this season’s team, Voeck admits that he and co-coach Doug Peterson will have a lot of inexperienced athletes. Some have never wrestled before.
“We have some freshmen that have participated in youth wrestling,” Voeck said. “Taking that step from youth wrestling to high school wrestling is always a bit of a challenge.”
Voeck will have at least three wrestlers that advanced to the sectional of the WIAA tournament in 2018-19. Kristian Schlicht (285 pounds), Zach Gunderson (145 pounds) and Cole Weaver (113 pounds) all advanced to the sectional round, but fell short of qualifying for the state tournament.
Yet, Voeck doesn’t want his wrestlers to get too hung up on going to state. One of his main goals is getting the team to have fun.
“Sometimes I think kids don’t realize how fast (high school) goes,” Voeck said. “The guys have to be relaxed and know that the world is not going to end if they don’t go to state. Enjoy it while you can.”
Voeck said he will also stress that it’s not a matter of winning or losing, but how hard his athletes compete.
“Not everyone can do this. Wrestling is just hard,” Voeck said. “It’s harder when you lose. It’s harder when you train. Sometimes, it’s hard when you win because you have to fight so hard against someone who is trying just as hard as you are. You have to deal with the comfortable and the uncomfortable.”