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After spending last winter as an assistant wrestling coach at St. Marys Area High School, Doug Surra is now a graduate assistant for the women's wrestling team at the University of the Cumberlands, which is located in Williamsburg, Ky. University of the Cumberlands boasts one of the top NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) women's wrestling programs in the country.
"I currently have around 30 girls on the team," Surra said. "As an assistant, I am involved in every part of the daily grind when it comes to training the girls. The head coach here, Alaina Berube, has allowed me to input my own lifting/training program.
Surra remarked that he gives a lot of credit to the team for the effort they put into their training.
"These girls have taken on a pretty hard program for a team that has never lifted before and have been training hard. You can really see the difference in their lifting as well as their wrestling already," Surra said.
According to Surra, his lifting program is based on all of his personal experiences in programs he participated in over the years.
"Both of my brothers were collegiate wrestlers and have had training programs from their respective schools that, in turn, they brought back to me and taught me at a young age. I, myself, have trained at many schools with many top-tier athletes and programs. I have taken everything I have learned and implemented a program that is not only sport-specific, but also can be a great program on a daily basis," Surra said.
He said the main focus is helping wrestlers gain strength.
"There are many things you can teach in any sport, but the only thing you can't make up for is strength, and that is what we are looking to gain. This is a NAIA program that offers wrestlers a lot of open tournaments and allows for them to wrestle some athletes that have been at the Olympic level," Surra said. "I have confidence that I have helped the girls right away. They are great students of the sport and listen really well. They have picked up on some things already and I can't wait to see how they progress the rest of the season."
After working with a group of high school guys last year at St. Marys Area, Surra remarked he has had little difficulty this year transitioning to working with a group of women at University of the Cumberlands.
"I don't see these girls as 'girls,'" Surra said. "They are my wrestlers and they train just as hard as any guy. I wasn't sure what to expect going into this, but the girls gained my respect as their coach right away. Some of these girls are training to be a national champion and possibly go to the Olympic level after college. Some of these girls are just looking to become an All-American. In every level you will have [different athletes with different goals], and these girls' goals are no [different than those of any male wrestler in their position.] They train hard and will be prepared for the postseason."
The past few months have been an interesting journey for Surra, who applied for the program at University of the Cumberlands early this past summer. He noted that Berube contact him shortly after he applied.
"I waited most of the summer trying to find something full-time around home so I could keep coaching for St. Marys, but things didn't pan out and this was an opportunity that I couldn't pass by," Surra said.
He explained that, in addition to coaching wrestling at the college level, he is also earning degrees in exercise sports science and fitness and sports management, and will also have the opportunity to travel around the country and abroad to locations such as London.
"Not to mention, our team is ranked third in the nation," Surra added. "This choice gives me more coaching experience and opens the door to coach at the college level at some point in my career, as well as to continue my education, which is the most important thing."
Doug is the son of Dan and Victoria Surra of Kersey. A graduate of St. Marys Area High School, he went on to attend West Liberty University, winning the 2009 NCAA Division II National Wrestling Championship in the 141-pound weight class. Surra is also certified to teach health and physical education for kindergarten through 12th grade.