When the wrestlers at Hopkins High School ask their first-year head coach about his athletic accomplishments, they usually are curious about mixed martial arts. And yes, Marcus LeVesseur has a solid history in that sport, compiling a record of 22-7 since going pro in 2003.
If they want to see some eye-popping numbers, however, the Hopkins wrestlers need to do a little research on their coach’s mat career. The Royals might be too young to remember what LeVesseur did in high school and college, so here’s a short summary…
--LeVesseur was a four-time state champion in high school, winning titles at Minneapolis Roosevelt in 1998, 1999 and 2000 and Bloomington Kennedy in 2001. Four wrestlers have won five state titles and LeVesseur is one of only 12 with four championships. With an overall high school record of 218 wins and 12 losses, he ranks 21st on the state’s all-time victories list.
--He compiled a record of 155-0 at Augsburg College and won four NCAA Division III titles, becoming only the second wrestler in NCAA history to complete a four-year undefeated career. LeVesseur also was a first-team all-MIAC quarterback at Augsburg.
Any further questions?
“Every day, every hour,” LeVesseur said, “one of them is asking me, ‘When’s the next fight?’ The kids ask me about finding a video online and I say, ‘No, I’m not worried about fighting right now. My only focus is coaching wrestling now.’ ”
With his mixed martial arts career on hold during the wrestling season, LeVesseur is in the very early stages of building what he hopes will become one of Minnesota’s premier programs. He had been an assistant coach at Hopkins for five years before former coach Pat Marcy resigned after last season, so he is well aware of the task at hand.
“I knew the team, I knew the structure and really kind of knew what to expect,” he said. “First and foremost, I think the team I have is the perfect challenge for me to build this program. In five or 10 years I would like to see this program represent Hopkins at the state tournament, year after year after year.”
The challenge is getting from here to there. LeVesseur, 30, is working on building feeder programs in the community, but with a twist. In many locales, wrestling starts with preschool and young elementary-age kids. LeVesseur is doing the opposite, starting with high school kids, then going into junior high and older elementary kids.
“It’s a hard challenge,” he said. “We try to see, first and foremost, which kids have relatives who are young and we try to get them in and bring their friends in. Typically, you go from elementary up. We’ve been working in reverse. We’ve been getting into the junior high level; we have a pretty decent junior high program. Now we’ve got to get into that fourth, fifth and sixth grade, then second, third and fourth. Once we get down to those grades, we’ll be rocking and rolling.”
Hopkins has qualified for the state team tournament only twice, in 1989 and 2011. This year’s team is extremely young, but that’s where building a program always starts.
“Our team is very green,” LeVesseur said. “We graduated 14 seniors last year, and they averaged nine or 10 years of experience. What I have this year in average years of wrestling experience is probably about three. We have a lot of first-year, a lot of second-year, a few third-years.”
The task at hand was evidenced in Thursday’s Senior Night home dual against Eden Prairie. The Eagles defeated Hopkins 51-18. Neither team is ranked among the top 10 in Class 3A by The Guillotine and Hopkins has no individuals ranked in the top 10 at any weight class (Eden Prairie has two).
The Royals’ focus, however, is not on things like rankings. It’s on building, working, learning and competing.
“(LeVesseur) keeps us battling, and that’s important, “said Matt Parker, a junior who wrestles at 285 pounds. “Right now wins and losses don’t really matter to us, it matters how hard we fight.”
Hopkins activities director Dan Johnson has been impressed with what he’s seen from the new head coach.
“Every year as an assistant he kept getting a little stronger and a little more invested and he was doing a nice job with the kids. I was pleased that he was interested in becoming a head coach,” Johnson said. “He’s really worked at it, he’s done all the coaching preparation, asked a lot of questions and is trying to figure out what his coaching style is. The kids say they’re in good competitive shape and they’re working hard at becoming better wrestlers. Hopefully all those things will come together.”
LeVesseur, who works as a para-professional at Hopkins High School, has a few credits left to complete his degree in health and physical education. When the wrestling season ends he will resume training for his mixed martial arts career. His most recent competition was in early December.
“Right now there’s not a whole lot of training,” he said. “I’m working full-time and coaching, which is like a second full-time job. There is honestly no time for me to give my all to the sport so MMA is on the back burner right now. When the season’s over I’ll still be working full-time but I’ll have more time to get in competition shape.”
His wrestlers ask him about mixed martial arts, and once in a while one of them will ask about his high school and college wrestling career.
“Some know about it, some don’t,” he said. “It’s hard to really know if they thoroughly understand what it means. If you didn’t know about it prior and no one told you, you’re not going to hear it from me.”
Johnson called LeVesseur “a very sincere young man. I think the kids understand that he’s genuine with them, honest with them, will tell them straight. Obviously he knows wrestling and he wants what’s best for the program and the kids. That makes all the difference in the world.”
--To see a photo gallery from the Eden Prairie-Hopkins match, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 417
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 5,656
(*During the 2012-13 school year)
--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn