While Mike McMullan and Josh Dziewa won’t be weighing in this season, their first since leaving collegiate excellence behind last spring, they have brought their talents to the Quakers’ wrestling room.
McMullan, a new assistant coach for the Quakers, made the decision to continue his career in a coaching capacity only after he was accepted into Penn’s master’s program in criminology.
“I was fortunate enough to be accepted into a program here that I really wanted to participate in,” McMullan said. “It worked out really well that there was a coaching position here too.”
While studying journalism at Northwestern, McMullan was as dominant as they come on the mat. The heavyweight boasted four All-American seasons, where he finished no lower than third in the nation and made an appearance in the NCAA finals in 2013.
Despite his success, McMullan admits he has always admired Penn’s combination of a strong wrestling program and stellar academics.
“When I grew up Penn was one of the top wrestling programs in the country,” McMullan said. “As someone who has high academic aspirations as well, I always want to be at a place that meshes those two the best. I think Penn embodies that type of school.”
All academics and athletics aside, McMullan had a third convincing motivation to attend Penn: His hometown of Easton, Pa., is not far from Philadelphia.
“I live just an hour north of here,” McMullan said. “After four years in Chicago, this is a great opportunity to come back closer to home.”
While some may question the readiness of such an inexperienced coach, McMullan dispels that notion by pointing to his college playing days.
“Of course it’s my first year officially coaching, but I’ve been coaching myself for the past four years,” McMullan said. “I’ve been successful at the national level, so I know what it takes to put yourself in a position to be a national champion.”
Coach Alex Tirapelle agrees that McMullan’s lack of experience does not impair his coaching ability.
“Mike’s learning curve has been really impressive,” Tirapelle admitted. “The ability for him to step in and contribute right away has been a real asset.”
Senior 184-pounder Lorenzo Thomas views McMullan’s college wrestling success as good as any coaching experience he could have.
“He knows what he’s doing, that’s for sure,” Thomas said. “When he tells you what you should be doing, chances are it’s going to work.”
McMullan’s instruction is especially fruitful for Thomas because of their similar styles. Both on the smaller side for their respective weight classes they rely on quickness, agility and technique to challenge opponents who often have more meat on their bones.
While McMullan has spent time training and sparring with Thomas, Dziewa’s role is primarily off the mat. Serving as director of operations he is the new face on the business and management sides of the team. A former wrestler at Iowa and a Yardley, Pa., native, Dziewa was a two-time NCAA qualifier and finished as runner-up in the Big Ten championship for the 141-pound division in 2015.
Dziewa, a recreation and sports business major, looks to apply his schooling to his job with the Quakers. Besides his degree, Dziewa contends that his time as a Hawkeye has taught him skills that he will use in his new position at Penn.
“Just being a part of Iowa wrestling gave me a ton of lessons that I am grateful to have learned,” Dziewa said. “Constantly looking to score points, and to score early and often are things I try to preach here.”
Coming out of school, Dziewa knew almost right away that his future lay within college athletics.
“I was looking for a position in the college atmosphere, and when I looked at the Penn position I was very impressed,” Dziewa admitted. “The deciding factor was the people. Everyone is so focused on making this team the best it can be.”
For Tirapelle, the most impressive aspect of Dziewa’s work since joining the staff has been his eagerness.
“Josh has an initiative that we really love,” Tirapelle said. “He’s always asking what he can do and how he can improve what we’re doing.”
When evaluating these two new members of the Penn wrestling staff, Tirapelle cannot find anything but positives.
“Yes, they both were great wrestlers in college,” Tirapelle said. “But they both contribute so much off the mat as well. It’s not the wrestling moves that impressed us here at Penn — it’s their mentality.”
“It’s the hard work, the goals, and the perseverance that will make them successful here at Penn and beyond.”
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