IU’s newest head coach, Angel Escobedo, wants to use his experience at the highest level of wrestling to bring the Hoosiers to the national level.
Escobedo is no stranger to IU. Growing up in Griffith, Indiana, he wrestled at IU from 2007-2010 and won the 2008 light-weight national championship for the Hoosiers under the guidance of former IU wrestling Coach Duane Goldman.
After his collegiate tenure with IU, Escobedo went to Colorado to train at the Olympic training center, eventually making a world team in 2013. While he continued to train and participate in international competitions, he helped train Ohio State wrestlers and became an assistant head coach at Iowa State from 2015 - 2017.
From there, Escobedo got a call from Goldman, his old head coach.
“When Duane made the call to me, almost 2 years ago, he had said, 'you know I’m going towards the end of my career,'" Escobedo said. "You would be the perfect person to replace me."
He was then brought on as an associate head coach for the Hoosiers in 2017-18 until Goldman retired in April. Then, Escobedo was offered the head coaching position and took it.
“This is the job right here, this is the job," Escobedo said. "This is what I set out for since I started coaching.”
Now, in Bloomington, Escobedo has set some goals to bring IU up to the national level.
He said his first priority is keeping the best wrestlers in the state in Indiana. His second priority is recruit athletes with good character, not just in the state, but from all over the country.
“I think winning and losing will take care of itself if you have a good attitude, good effort and your character is very high because I think you will do the right things on and off the mat,” Escobedo said.
This is something he emphasizes to his wrestlers on the team, according to redshirt senior wrestler Bryce Martin.
“The emphasis on effort and attitude," Martin said. "He preaches it every day instead of focusing solely on wins and losses.”
From a winning and losing standpoint, Escobedo has set some lofty goals for himself and the team.
“We want to get to the top of the Big Ten," Escobedo said. "We want to be up there competing for a Big Ten Championship and then for nationals. We want to get in the top 10, we want to be up there and win a national title."
He said by sharing what he learned at the international level, he can accelerate his wrestlers' growth and have them reach that level during their collegiate wrestling years.
Sharing his experiences and techniques with his wrestlers is Escobedo's coaching style. Expressing himself to them in a way they understand is something Escobedo said he tries to do as coach.
“I have to learn a kid’s language of what he’s talking and how he learns, and then I can show him the move,” Escobedo said. “Not everyone communicates the same. Some people, it just clicks by looking and some people maybe have to do it for two months before they learn, so you really gotta be in tune with your athlete.”
Being in tune and speaking the athletes' language comes a little easier to Escobedo than other head coaches. A decade earlier, he was in their shoes.
Being 31 years old and a head coach at a Power Five program is something he feels is more to his advantage than his detriment.
“I haven’t had any hardships, so I think I can accomplish anything,” Escobedo said. “Anything is possible to me. I haven’t ran into those road bumps just because I am so young and so new in this. I think that’s a good thing because I’m going to be very optimistic in everything that I can see this program becoming.”
His wrestlers also don’t see his youth as detriment.
“He’s young, but he’s really wise,” Martin said. “He really knows what he’s talking about. I don’t think him being young is a negative thing at all.”
Escobedo also said he is going to use his youth to grind more and give back to the state by helping high school wrestling programs in Indiana.
He gives speeches and runs practices and clinics all over the state.
In the more immediate future during the 2018-19 season, Escobedo hopes to win four Big Ten dual meets, a slight improvement after not winning any last season, along with winning all of their conference duals. He also has some more ambitious goals for his starting wrestlers, who are all returning from last season.
“We want to not only get national qualifiers, we want all-Americans on the board,” Escobedo said. “All-Americans compete for national titles and these guys are very capable of doing that. I have a lot of belief and faith in them.”
He said he is looking forward to working with the other new head coaches at IU and seeing what they can do to bring IU sports to the next level.
“There’s a theme going on here and the theme is that, if you look across the board at the coaches, it’s the energy, it’s the passion, of not only their sports, but of this institution of Indiana and how we want to bring this university to the national level,” Escobedo said.
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