Written by Lauren Roth
In March of 2020, Roanoke College Athletic Director Scott Allison hired Nate Yetzer to be the head coach of Roanoke’s brand new wrestling team. Coach Yetzer would be joining the RC coaching staff from Ferrum College, where he served as head wrestling coach for the past eight years. Since Yetzer has arrived on staff, he has faced many challenges, most revolving around building a new athletic program in the midst of a pandemic. Despite this unique time to be starting a program, Yetzer has great ambitions for the success of this program and what it will bring to Roanoke.
Nate Yetzer grew up in a small town in Ohio, about 45 minutes south from Cleveland. Yetzer and his older brother both began wrestling around the age of seven after their father introduced them to the sport. After that initial introduction, they both fell in love with it. Yetzer continued his wrestling career at Edinburgh University in Pennsylvania where he had an incredibly unique experience. The school itself was a division, but the wrestling program was division one. As a result, the program was highly favored among students and brought major turnouts for meets.
Once Yetzer graduated from college, he took a sales job for about a month before he realized that it was not the job for him. He knew that he wanted to go back to the sport even if it was just for a short time, so he began coaching at Binghamton University where he stayed for about a year. Soon after, he was offered an assistant coaching position at Virginia Tech where he coached for six years. At this point, Yetzer realized this wasn’t just a temporary job; it was what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. Ferrum College, another school in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference, saw this same passion and reached out to him to start their wrestling program. Yetzer worked with Ferrum wrestling for eight years before bringing his talents to start the wrestling program here at RC.
In his many years of coaching, Yetzer has discovered important values that he upholds along with his players. He said the first thing is to know to work hard consistently, not just when you feel like it or for short stints of time. He says as college students, we face a lot of roadblocks; we want to stop trying, to give up. His job then as a coach is to show his athletes that success is right around the corner, to not think about quitting, and to keep encouraging them. This is the core value of a team: holding yourself accountable and holding your team accountable. He believes students are accountable for their actions, but also their attitude and the energy they bring to the room each day. “This is the one thing you can control, your accountability is what can give you hope to keep pushing forward.”
Yetzer faces many challenges in starting this new program. A major one is getting people to buy into the vision of this program that isn’t established yet. So, he has to find people who are willing to share this vision and establish it together. He also faces challenges in recruiting. It is already hard to encourage recruits to build a new program, but recruiting during a pandemic is even more difficult simply based on travel restrictions.
Despite these challenges, Yetzer is still able to see how his vision is coming together every day. The first few years are focused on just getting better every day. Winning is also the goal, but Yetzer says it’s just a byproduct of everything coming together.
Any sport’s program will face very unique challenges this year; however, with the right support and ambition, the rewards can be tenfold. Coach Yetzer has high ambitions for Roanoke College’s new wrestling team, with some as high as achieving national titles in just a few years. The Maroons will take on the world of wrestling in the fall of 2021.