Burandt has Chieftains going in right direction

Dowagiac coach Colin Burandt (left) and assistant coach Mike Williams discuss strategy during the Sturgis match Wednesday night. (Leader photo/SCOTT NOVAK)

Dowagiac coach Colin Burandt (left) and assistant coach Mike Williams discuss strategy during the Sturgis match Wednesday night. (Leader photo/SCOTT NOVAK)

Facing the Dowagiac wrestling team is once again a challenge for opponents.

After struggling for several years, including a 10-10 record in dual matches last year, the Chieftains appear to be headed in the right direction under first-year coach Colin Burandt.

Dowagiac improved to 14-5 overall in dual matches and 6-1 in the Wolverine Conference with its two wins against Sturgis (41-29) and Three Rivers (48-30) Wednesday.

The win over the Trojans really stood out as the Chieftans trailed, 30-26, entering the final three matches.
Burandt has brought the traits that made him a very successful wrestler at Niles High School.

A 2011 Viking graduate, Burandt was a three-time state qualifier and a three-time captain. He wrestled in the 119, 125 and 130-pound weight classes.

“Hard work and mental toughness is what I preach to the team,” said Burandt, who was an assistant wrestling coach at Niles the last three years.
“I learned a lot from a lot of good coaches. I had (Niles wrestling) coach (Todd) Hesson as a mentor and a bunch of good assistants at Niles. I got to learn a lot from them and I’ve instilled the things I’ve learned from them into my system at Dowagiac.”

Hesson helped Burandt get interested in coaching and eventually he helped Burandt get the wrestling job at Dowagiac.

“Since my freshman year of high school me and coach Hesson kind of bonded,” Burandt said. “He was like a second father to me. We always kind of talked about me possibly taking over the Niles program eventually. But with the success Niles was having I didn’t see him retiring any time soon.

“I was about to be an assistant under (former Niles wrestler) Kenyon Ellison at Cassopolis and then I got a phone call from coach Hesson and he told me that Dowagiac was looking for a wrestling coach and he asked me if I was interested and I was.”

Burandt had an idea what it took to fix a program that lacked depth.

“Dowagiac is a really big football school,” Burandt said. “I used the message that wrestling helps you become a better football player and a better athlete in general.
“Also, a lot of wrestlers got tired or burned out over the past few years. It wasn’t very fun for them so I just told them to come out and try it. If you like it, that’s awesome, and maybe you’ll succeed at it.

“For kids that had never wrestled I told them why not give the sport a try. You may end up being great or you might be average but you’ll end up being around a great wrestling family that a wrestling team becomes.”

Wrestlers like 171-pounder Scotty Hassle are now thriving under Burandt’s coaching.

“Coach is teaching us wrestling techniques,” said Hassle. “We also have a fuller lineup and we have wrestlers who are more experienced. We have tougher wrestlers that know what to do on the mat.”

In the Dowagiac High School gymnasium you can see the school’s wrestling accomplishments proudly displayed on a banner.

The Chieftains were a state runner-up in 1968 and 1998 and a state semifinalist in 1989, 1997 and 1999.
Burandt wants his wrestles to create their own legacy.

“I always like to aim high,” Burandt said about his expectations this year. “Twenty wins is always a good goal. When I was at Niles coach Hesson always aimed for 20 wins. We also have our sights set on getting to the state finals. We’re not worried about individual stuff. That will work itself out. We want to accomplish something as a team and put up banners and numbers.

“I want to build a program here.”

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