Scott Bayer is new as Batavia wrestling’s head coach but is a veteran of the program, having served as an assistant under former Bulldogs coaches Tom Arlis and Ben Morris. Bayer, a graduate of Hoffman Estates High School and Monmouth College, touched base with Chronicle sports editor Jay Schwab for this week’s Weekend Chit-chat, in which Bayer discusses wrestling nutrition, his role as an assistant for Batavia’s sophomore football team and the potential drawback of Batavia’s recently upgraded weightroom, from a wrestling perspective. The following is an edited transcript:
How has the summer been with the program?
It was productive. I would say when we found out that coach Morris wasn’t coming back – I had done this one time before when coach Arlis left back in 2010 – we planned a pretty robust offseason. Greg Schroeder, who is 2006 grad, and I ran a freestyle and Greco practice twice a week at school and we had pretty good participation in that and worked with Mike DiNovo of West Aurora on at least one occasion. We did a couple [of] different tournaments, brought them over to North Central for a workout session over there, and guys came in to open mat. ... We went to an eight-team field at the Iowa team camp, there were schools from Montana, two schools from there, three from Nebraska, three from Illinois, and we actually won that. That was kind of exciting.
What would be a thumb-nail sketch of your program philosophy?
It’s obviously not totally honed yet but I’m a big believer in working on guys’ mental and physical toughness. It’s a unique sport ... It requires kids who are very physical and I believe in a very physical style of wrestling. You can’t coach robots and you want kids to be good at what they can be good at, and you want them to be really good at it and give them a lot of opportunities for what they consider to be their go-to series. ... I believe I am who I am because of what wrestling has made me, and I think it’s a huge benefit to guys when they stick it out and do it the right way. ... We make young men as well as any sport does. That’s really the big picture.
How much have the facility upgrades at Batavia, such as the weightroom, been beneficial for the program?
That’s been a blessing and a curse, if you’ll allow me. It’s great to have, no doubt about it, we have state-of-art facilities, as good as many Division III colleges in the area, and I’m really happy with them. The curse is that it encourages guys to solely focus on lifting in the offseason and, frankly, Batavia is a football and basketball town before a wrestling town. We’re trying to change that but what I saw over the last couple years is you have 80 guys in line to go to the weightroom at 2:45 and we have 25, 30 guys coming in to do the real hard work, the competition that goes on in the winter time. Part of my job is to convince guys they can do wrestling and wrestling will make them a better athlete.
The program seems like it’s had some retention problems lately. How do you address that?
I suppose. I haven’t had a problem retaining me in terms of coaching. This is my eighth year and I don’t intend to go anywhere. ... If you mean retention from a wrestler standpoint, it’s really about making sure guys see themselves as part of a larger program. We’re going to work really hard to build that from grade school on.
How much of a nutritionist do you have to be to coach wrestling?
It’s important. Part of what you’re doing is training guys to lead a lifestyle. Not every kid is going to be at that level where they’re watching everything but if you want to be serious about it you have to, so it’s huge. I’ve had to learn a lot about it in recent years. I’m a former heavyweight, so the sport definitely was different for me since only one of my high school and college years I actually had to do any weight management, so you learn a lot about that as a coach. A lot of things in that regard I’ve had to develop over the years.
If you weren’t a wrestling head coach, what’s another sport you’d be interested in coaching?
... I just started on the football staff (as a sophomore assistant) and there are a lot of great guys. Between the two sports there are a lot of crossover skills I see as crucial. It’s [helpful] that I played both in high school and college and that’s been great being on both staffs. Those are the two sports when I made the decision, nine, 10 years ago to get in to teaching that I wanted to coach. I hadn’t coached football up until last year but I really enjoyed it, so that’s my other sport.
Is there a country other than the U.S. you tend to root for at all in the Olympics and, if so, why?
I’ll tell you what, I was rooting for [the Nigeria men’s basketball team] when they played the United States and dropped it [156-73 final score]. I was hoping they’d keep it to a half dollar. But I can’t say I follow any other countries’ international sports with any regularity.