Havre Daily News Sports Editor
When there's only been a handful of head coaches in the history of your most successful program, selecting the next one is not something to be taken lightly.
But new Montana State University-Northern athletics director Dave Gantt believes he has found the right person for the job.
After spending Monday in Havre, touring the campus and meeting with the school's search committee and the public, Fort Benton High School wrestling coach Dan Troupe was named as the head coach of the Northern wrestling program this morning.
"There aren't many opportunities as an athletic director to come in and interview your top candidate for your flagship program on your first official day of work," Gantt said. "We wanted the interview process to be in a sequential manner. Dan was our No. 1 candidate from the beginning."
Coming in as the top candidate to replace David Ray, who resigned June 29, Troupe did nothing but make his credibility stronger on Monday, particularly in the interview process and the public forum.
"Given the feedback, both verbal and written, that I received, everyone is comfortable and confident that Dan will be able to carry on the tradition of success in Northern wrestling," Gantt said.
It's a task that Troupe believes he's up to.
"It's been a dream of mine to be a head coach of a college program," Troupe said in a telephone interview today. "I know I have some huge shoes to fill, but I wouldn't have applied if I didn't think I could do it."
Indeed, Ray's record at Northern for the past 12 years will be tough for any coach to live up to. Ray's teams captured the coveted and prestigious NAIA national team title four times, most recently in 2004 in Great Falls. The Lights also went on a run of three straight, winning championships from 1998 to 2000.
Northern finished second in 2002 and third in 2003 and 1997. In dual matches, Ray's teams were equally as dominant, racking up an impressive 137-39-4 record, including a 15-4 record this past season.
Troupe isn't going to try to revamp or rearrange the Lights. He's only there to build on the foundation that Ray left, he said.
"I'm not going to try and reinvent the wheel," he said. "David and I come from similar wrestling backgrounds. I agree with much of his philosophy of hard pounding, hard conditioning and hard wrestling. But I will teach maybe a little more eclectic style of wrestling, with parts of freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling. I am going to teach a lot of different techniques."
Troupe was a two-sport standout at Flathead High School. He earned MVP honors on the Braves' football team, but his real success came on the wrestling mat where he was state champion in 1989 and took his talents to NCAA power Iowa State.
Troupe was the Cyclones' varsity team captain and was twice named NCAA All-American at 190 pounds. He also was a two-time freestyle/Greco-Roman national champion, in 1989 and 1995, and a member of the USA Wrestling World Team, where he was the two-time USA Junior World Greco-Roman champion and the Junior World Freestyle champion. He also placed three different times at the Olympic trials. His accomplishments on the mat garnered him an induction into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
"Dan has immediate credibility with our current student-athletes with his actions in the wrestling room," Gantt said. "And he has plenty of credibility around the state and the national level."
Although he has only been a head coach for a few years, Troupe has had three stints as a college assistant that will help, particularly in terms of recruiting.
"Any coach that will make the transition from high school to college will have a tremendous learning curve when it comes to recruiting," Gantt said. "Any time you can get a coach to come in with that curve already learned, it puts them in a stronger position."
Troupe won't have to do much recruiting for this year's team. The Lights return several wrestlers from last year's team that finished fourth at the NAIA national tournament. Ray also recruited a solid class for this upcoming season, leaving Troupe in an ideal situation.
"There is going to be some transition in that first year," Troupe said. "But David has left me with a great group of wrestlers. There is some added pressure because of that, but it will only motivate me to work that much harder."