Andy Lausier has revitalized the Davidson wrestling program since he took over as head coach in 2017. Last season, the Wildcats had the most Southern Conference victories in a season in program history. Davidson finished in the top five at the 2020 SoCon Wrestling Championships. Lausier has made a tremendous impact in fundraising, recruiting and developing wrestlers on and off the mat. Davidson earned back-to-back NWCA All-Academic Team recognition in 2018 and 2019. Prior to taking over at Davidson, Lausier spent four seasons as head wrestling coach at Sacred Heart.
MatBoss caught up with Lausier and talked to him about raising the standard at Davidson, what makes Davidson special, Steph Curry, Chris Ayres, Ty Eustice and more.
Last season you were was unable to compete at the SoCon Championships because of COVID. What did you take away from last season?
Lausier: I think what it did was it gave me more belief in this generation. I think I've started to get to that point where I'm a little critical of the younger generation. They've just been so resilient all year long. No matter what new COVID rule or situation got thrown at them, they just kind of thrived off it. We were in a really tough situation. We did everything right for the entire year. We just got some bad luck. One person got COVID. Then two. Then it was about nine. That was like two weeks out from our conference tournament. So I think we try to always take the good away. We try and find an advantage in every perceived disadvantage. We've been able to do that internally a little bit. I don't think people know maybe just how good we really are because they didn't get a chance to see us at the SoCon tournament.
I see the hashtag #RaiseTheStandard at Davidson. What does that mean?
Lausier: I love that question. Coming off the COVID year, in some ways, as a coach, it almost felt a little bit like a sabbatical. I got to really step away and say, 'All right, what trends have I fallen into that are not productive? What are things that I need to do better? So it really started with me. I was like, 'Man, I've got to raise my standard, especially in some areas, like how I deal with injured wrestlers. What type of encouragement am I giving them every single day? How much is our athletic trainer included into our daily staff meetings? Then it just started to trickle down. I said, you know what, I think this is good for all of us. So raise the standard is just that, it's challenging yourself every day. We don't come to practice. We come to train. There's a big difference. Training has purpose. Practice is checking a box. I think raising the standard means that we're just not checking a box. We're going to challenge ourselves. And if you hold yourself accountable, that should be the highest standard that there is.
You've been in coaching since the early 2000s. Can you compare coaching then to coaching now? Is it a different type of kid you're coaching?
Lausier: That's an incredibly deep question. I don't think so. I've realized it is my responsibility to evolve and meet the generation, not the generation standards to evolve and meet me. I think I probably have better relationships with my wrestlers now than I ever have. That is kind of weird because I'm so far removed from them in terms of an age category. I'm not sure I knew how to build trust with guys early on. Or maybe I thought that trust was only built on the wrestling mat, whereas maybe now because I'm 43, a father of two and been married for 15 years, I've seen a lot of life. Those conversations carry some real depth to them that I think ultimately the guys trust me a lot. I think wrestlers are wrestlers. I don't know if it's so much that I'm coaching a different kid or if there's a different guy coaching the same type of kid.
How would you describe Davidson College to someone who has been never there?
Lausier: I do it all the time when we have recruits in. I will tell you that in the academic circles we are as highly regarded as just about any level of institution in the country. Because the size of our school, we only have 1900 undergraduates, sometimes people across the country aren't familiar with the Davidson brand. But here's what it is. It's an excellent factory. This place manufactures excellence every single day. So it doesn't matter if you're a freshman, a senior, a wrestling coach, a professor, a cafeteria worker, a resident hall advisor, everyone here in this community challenges each other in a way that it's like a great wrestling room. I always use that analogy. It's like one of the best wrestling rooms in the world. It's just this is 1900 students from an international population that you can't come here and not be world class after four years.
Steph Curry, one of the NBA's biggest stars, played at Davidson. What has that done for your program?
Lausier: I think he's done a lot for our program, maybe on a secondary level. When you walk into our athletic center, you walk into the Hall of Fame and see this giant picture of a guy that was a huge underdog. People don't necessarily know his story that he wasn't this amazing recruit. He was physically underdeveloped. He couldn't shoot the ball above his head. So he was shooting from his chest in high school and a lot of coaches didn't want anything to do with him. Then he came here. In two years he transformed an athletic department because he created a story of this is what you can do here. Now he's the face of the NBA. He's a face that is very well respected. Very rarely do you see anything negative attached to him. I think that's a product of Davidson. They manufactured excellence and Steph Curry broke through. So we always say, if you can do that here, then that makes sense why a guy like Kyle Dake could do it at Cornell. So if the landscape exists, embrace it. Use it. Run with it.
You served as head assistant coach at Princeton from 2007-2011 and worked under Chris Ayres. What did you take from your experience with Chris Ayres?
Lausier: I'll tell you a funny story. I was doing a wrestling clinic a few weeks ago in this area. Darryl Burley was down here. Lehigh legend. Amazing guy. I got a few minutes to talk with him. I said, 'It's really incredible how much of my life has been impacted by Lehigh wrestlers.' It started back with Dave Icenhower. I was a grad assistant at Trenton, now The College of New Jersey. Ice wrestled at Lehigh. The guy who was hugely important to me was Chris Ayres. He's had the biggest impact on my wrestling life in terms of not only a guy who believed in me, but a guy who really taught me and helped develop me. I say to him all the time, 'I would have loved to have known what I could have done if I wrestled for you.' It just taught me a lot about when personalities and relationships match up, you can make great things happen. So he's still on speed dial on my phone. I hit him up quite a bit when I need some advice.
In October, you brought on Ty Eustice as your head assistant. What has he brought to the program?
Lausier: He's brought a lot. He's one of the most impressive men I've ever been around. That's not an on-the-mat thing. That's just a straight up, this guy has a championship touch on everything that he does. It's so impressive. It's an amazing story of just a sequence of events. We had an assistant position opening in a very tough time period. So I kind of had my rolodex ready on some guys I needed to have conversations with. Ty reached out. I'll be honest with you … initially I was like, 'Yeah, that's cool but I don't think that would be a good fit.' Then he showed a little initiative that impressed me. I said, 'All right, I want to have a conversation with this guy.' It was one of the best 30-minute phone conversations of my life. There was a connection between two people that had never met before but have very similar ideals in terms of how coaching relates to mentorship and how those two things intertwine … and doing things the right way. So it kind of went from an interview to a full-on recruitment process where I was like, 'I have to have this man here at Davidson.' He's been a total warrior. He moved his family out here. They've done everything from selling a home, packing, moving, buying a home and along the way, this is how I've described him so far. It's really incredible. Never once did he not know someone's name on this team from the day that he arrived here. I think it's that level of commitment to detail that I so respect. Because what that means is he was studying the roster online to make sure that when he got here he had a name with everyone's face. That's what makes a great coach. It's that level of caring. That's raising the standard. That's really good stuff.
What are your expectations for this year's team?
Lausier: People ask us a lot like, do we have goal setting meetings? What are your goals? I'm like, we don't need to have goal setting meetings. I don't know a guy in the country that doesn't go shake hands and try and win the next match in front of them. We know what we're trying to accomplish. So what we focus on is, OK, how are we going to do that? We're very process-oriented. What we know is this, if we can get healthy and stay healthy, I think we can get on an incredible rhythm. Then obviously the goal is to really break through at that Southern Conference tournament. We've had guys in the finals since I've been here. We've had guys wrestling for automatic bids. But we have to get on that plane two weekends after the SoCon tournament and make sure that we're on the floor at the NCAA championships.