Coach’s Corner: John Helgerson

By Mike Romor

John Helgerson joined wrestling’s coaching staff last season after an inaugural one-year coaching stint at Wartburg. Now in his second season with the Huskies, the assistant coach continues to dedicate his time to improving a talented heavyweight class.

Helgerson took some time to talk to the Northern Star about his successful wrestling career, young coaching work and his aspirations.

Northern Star: Why did you come to NIU as an assistant coach?

John Helgerson: Coach Ryan Ludwig called me and had talked with my college coach. He asked me if I was interested in an open position here. I said, “Definitely.” I came down to visit because I was coaching at Wartburg at the time, my alma mater. But I was looking for something new, so I took a visit and loved it.

NS: Can you describe your experiences and history at Wartburg?

JH: I went there to actually play football originally, but after one year I was dead-set on wrestling. My sophomore year I placed third at the national tournament, my junior year I placed second and my senior year I won the national title….

NS: So what led to you choosing a coaching role once you graduated?

JH: I was very passionate about wrestling, and it was something I was very interested in. It was the one thing I could wake up every morning to do and be energized and driven to succeed. After college, it beat working in a cubicle every day. I love this sport so much.

NS: Where do you see your coaching future?

JH: At Northern Illinois. I want to help build this place up and be one of the best teams in the nation and compete for national championships and for All-Americans every year.

NS: How was the transition from wrestling to coaching?

JH: It’s hard. When you’re watching, you know what the guy should do, but you can’t do it; it’s all on that guy. I want to be up there wrestling for them, but I know that’s not possible. It was very challenging right away, but I’ve gotten better now and become better at analyzing what people are doing right and wrong and motivating each guy in the way they need to be motivated. I’m a lot better at finding what it takes for each guy to be motivated.

NS: Before you came in, NIU lacked consistent and reliable heavyweight coaching for a couple years. Was it easy to come in and demand attention and respect from NIU’s heavyweights?

JH: Yeah, I came in and started to whoop their butts right away. They realized I am here to help them any time after practice or before practice. I try to remain open to helping them anytime I can….

NS: What is some of the progression you have seen from the heavyweights since arriving here?

JH: Just the fight and the desire. A lot of wrestling isn’t about technique, it’s about passion. I stress to them to never give up and go as hard as you can, especially with Jared Torrence. That kid has so much heart. It doesn’t matter how tired he gets, he is going to keep wrestling for the entire match, which is exactly what we’re looking for.