New Troy High wrestling coach calls on extensive background to lead

By: Timothy Pontzer | Troy Times | Published January 31, 2017

 Troy’s EJ Douglas, right, drives through his opponent Jan. 18. Douglas is one of 24 members of the Colts roster, looking to compete in the OAA White and regional play.

Troy’s EJ Douglas, right, drives through his opponent Jan. 18. Douglas is one of 24 members of the Colts roster, looking to compete in the OAA White and regional play.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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TROY — When asked what fuels his passion for wrestling, Joe Wood is frank, stating that the sport saved and changed his life immensely.

“I went from being an overweight fifth-grader always getting bullied to having self-confidence, learning about fitness, hard work and integrity,” Wood said. “It has really shaped my life, and my goal is to give back to try and build up people and then put them back into the community.”

Wood is making that goal a reality at Troy High, currently halfway through his first year at the helm of the wrestling program. The new coach called his team young and impressionable, and he is thrilled to put his stamp on the Colts.

“We are getting better every single week, and that is great to see,” Wood said, as the Colts compete in the Oakland Activities Association White Division. At press time, the Colts were 12-15 overall. “I’ve worked with kids my whole career both in wrestling and in counseling. I wanted to bring that here, get to know these kids, see how they work, and then get them to buy in on teamwork, sacrifice and discipline.”

While this is his first head coaching gig in the sport that he loves, Wood came in with a prestigious résumé. He was named All-State twice before graduating from Clarkston High in 2003, going on to compete at Eastern Michigan University for two years. Wood then studied the Greco-Roman discipline and wrestled at the United States Olympic Training Center at Northern Michigan University in Marquette.

After a successful career that took him around the world, Wood decided it was time to return to his old stomping grounds.

“Marquette is seven hours from home, and I loved it, but it was a lot of work,” Wood said. “As much as I like to wrestle, I love to coach it even more, so I took an invite from Frank Lafferty to be an assistant.”

Currently the head coach at Rochester High, Lafferty coached Wood at Clarkston. He brought on his former standout to join the Falcons staff, and Wood knew he had found his true calling.

Lafferty’s opportunity led to more doors being opened, as Wood spent two years with Rochester before serving on the staffs at Waterford Kettering, the Oakland University club team and Oxford High.

Wood took on an expanded role with Oxford, organizing offseason programs, scheduling, camps and traveling with the team all over the country. He helped lead the Wildcats to a state title in 2011 and a runner-up finish the following season.

“I was really a behind-the-scenes guy at Oxford, but it really helped me learn all of the things that go towards running a very successful program,” Wood said. “My last two years there, I took a bit of a step back, getting married and starting a family. I thought about maybe returning to Oxford, but my wife told me if I didn’t definitely get back into coaching wrestling, I’d have a problem because she knows how much I care about it. She really encouraged me to try and find a spot.”

That spot opened up over the summer, as former coach Jon Thomas stepped down from the Troy program. Despite having zero previous ties to Troy, Wood saw the position as an opportunity to really build up a winner.

“The more I thought about it, I realized this could be a great gig,” Wood said. “Jon has always gotten a great turnout, and I applied and was really fortunate to get it.”

Wood immediately began implementing his style and also started on forming a youth club open to all elementary students in the district and working closely with the middle school squad.

“I didn’t know what I had, and I knew I’d have to build up the entire program, but it is a fun challenge,” Wood said. “(Troy High Athletic Director) Dan House has been great, providing whatever I need and really helping our transition.”

His wrestlers have definitely noticed the changes.

“I really like his new style of teaching,” said junior Joey Mason, who competes at 125 pounds. “He is working to my style instead of changing it, and it has really improved what I can do well.”

“He makes us work a lot harder, but you can see and feel it paying off,” added fellow junior Alex Vecchioni, who wrestles at 145. “At the end of matches, I’m not tired anymore.”

Wood credits Lafferty’s tutelage in his approach to coaching.

“Lafferty taught me that wrestling is not always about pushing a certain style,” Wood said. “It’s about seeing what kids are good at and then strengthening their weaknesses. I think that really helps kids see what they do well and then improve on that.”

Mason and Vecchioni are two of the 24 members of Wood’s inaugural varsity roster, a group that includes only one senior. 

“Having only one senior hurts us a bit now, but it is exciting for the future,” Wood said. “Everyone in the lineup is sold on coming back and getting better.”

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