Szalat to coach Gael baseball, wrestling

The St. Edmond athletic department confirmed the hiring of Mike Szalat Wednesday as the new head wrestling and baseball coach.

Szalat is currently the head cross country coach of the Gaels.

“Coach Szalat brings a high level of energy and expertise to both of our programs,” SEHS athletic director Steve Neuberger said. “Combining that with the fact that coach Szalat is on staff as a teacher in the building, he emerged as our top choice.

“We are excited to have him on board.”

Szalat will return to the mats this winter, replacing Matt Petsinger. He previously served as in the same role for the 2014-15 season and was also an assistant for a season.

“I’m excited about the challenges of both positions,” said Szalat, who has also coached wrestling at the middle school level. “With wrestling, the No. 1 challenge is getting more kids out. I’ve meet with a lot of the kids who were out last year and talked with some others, and I think we can build this from the ground up.

“With wrestling, we have 14 varsity spots. I don’t know if we’ll get that many out or how weights will shift, but there is a great opportunity to compete at the varsity level and earn a varsity letter in wrestling.”

Both Ty Smith and Noah Carlson are expected back this winter on the mats. Szalat will have Eugene Carlson as an assistant coach, reuniting the two from their own high school wrestling days.

“We graduated together at Laurens-Marathon, where we had a great wrestling coach and a very good program,” he said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun coaching with Eugene. He’s been around these kids, and that will also help.”

In the summer, Szalat will shift from his role as an assistant with the SEHS baseball program to the man in charge, replacing Joe Shanks.

“Joe was a great mentor; I can’t do this without thanking him for all the opportunities he gave me,” Szalat said. “We became very good friends, and I’m so grateful for his willingness to let me coach how I want to coach, which is more aggressive and something I’ll continue to do.

“He taught me a lot about the game of baseball and we’ll continue to do the things he did well and I’ll throw in twists here and there that I like to do.”

This will be Szalat’s 11th season with the SEHS baseball program. He also worked with the Fort Dodge Baseball Association, and plans to continue doing that in a different role.

“I’ve coached the last 14 years in the FDBA, and still plan on going to meetings,” he said. “I also want to have a good relationship with the (Fort Dodge) Recreation Department because I think that is very important.

“We are going to do more little things that hopefully will get more kids involved and excited about baseball.”

Returning this summer for the Gaels will be Jake Szalat, Nick Bennett, Jack McEvoy, Jackson Kochendorfer, Carlson, Jed Tracy and Cael Kolacia.

Szalat has served as head cross country coach since 1999 and with districts set for next Thursday, his focus will remain there.

“Qualifying for state is my first priority,” Szalat said. “After that is all over, we’ll go into wrestling. And after that, baseball.

“As a coach, I’ve gotten used to wearing a couple of different hats at the same time.”

Szalat is a social studies teacher at St. Edmond.