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Starting from scratch

Roy Reyes used to think about it, the challenge of replacing a coach who started Springstead's program and produced a 318-30-1 record, 14 conference, 17 district and 6 region titles and 7 individual state champions in 23 seasons.

He used to worry about expectations, about measuring up.

That is, until his predecessor and current boss, athletic director Bob Levija, freed him from the pressures created by the Eagles' success.

"Bob was real clear: "You can clean the slate if you want and start from

scratch,' " Reyes said.

A new era begins Thursday when Reyes, a former Central wrestler and Class 3A state runner-up at 145 pounds, makes his coaching debut in the Eagles Preseason Classic.

He plans to start fresh while borrowing liberally from Levija's program.

"Basically, it's going to be the same program that has been run the last 23 years," Reyes said. "It's just a different name as far as the head coach."

Reyes, 27, became the second wrestling coach in Springstead history when he replaced Levija in August.

Levija, 50, stepped down to concentrate on his duties as athletic director and to run a bible study program with coaches at the school.

Faith, family and fundamentals were building blocks of Levija's program, and will continue to be stressed under Reyes, a born-again Christian who emphasizes punctuality and doesn't tolerate profanity from his athletes.

Before drawing his System of Wrestling, Reyes discussed philosophies with Levija. To Reyes' amazement, he and Levija agreed on almost everything.

One notable exception was weightlifting, which Reyes plans to implement for the first time at Springstead.

"If you match up against somebody who's in good shape and you're in the third period and his technique is as good as yours, it just might come down to who's just a little bit stronger in order to finish their moves," Reyes said.

For someone who had been tied so closely to the program for so long, Levija turned over complete control to Reyes _ from scheduling to meting out discipline to picking out new uniforms.

Though he plans to attend dual meets and tournaments, Levija has not been to a single practice.

"He's there when I need him," Reyes said. "But he's not looking over my shoulder."

Though acknowledging that this will be a rebuilding season, Reyes said his aim is to keep the program at a high level while helping the Eagles reach their individual goals.

Others' expectations will have to wait.

"I've got my own expectations, my own goals, and I think that keeps me occupied enough at this point," Reyes said. "First coming into this job, I thought, "Oh my gosh, Springstead. I better be able to bring it.'

"But I'm confident in what I teach, I'm confident in the kids I coach and the program I'm in charge of, so now I'm just eager to get on the mat and start wrestling," he said.

Frank Pastor can be reached at (800) 333-7505, ext. 1430. Send e-mail to pastorsptimes.com.

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