It took becoming an assistant coach for Dwayne Miller to truly fall back in love with wrestling.

He'd been a top competitor at Monona Grove (Wis.) High School as a teenager, had wrestled at the University of Wisconsin and the U.S. Army, and coached in California before moving to Massachusetts to coach in both the Pittsfield and Hoosac Valley programs.

Both programs have since gone under; when the Hurricane wrestling program merged into the Mount Greylock program in 2006, Miller joined Ray Miro's coaching staff.

That's when the fun returned.

"With my wrestling background, there were a lot of pressures to win, win, win," Miller said. "You had your blinders on and that was it. I was fortunate to be successful and not get burned out by that mentality.

Monument Mountain assistant Simon Jones, right, wrestled for coach Gordie Soule at MMRHS.
Monument Mountain assistant Simon Jones, right, wrestled for coach Gordie Soule at MMRHS. (Matthew Sprague / Berkshire Eagle Staff)

"We really impress upon the kids that, beyond your years of wrestling with us, you're going to create relationships that last a long, long time."

Miller is one of a number of dedicated assistant wrestling coaches in the Berkshires, men who live for the sport and are just as involved as their head coaches in the county's four programs. They're on the mats with the wrestlers in practice. They're in the chairs on the corners alongside the head coaches during the matches. They're keeping the stats, filing the paperwork and helping to keep wrestling strong in the county.

Some of them, it seems, never left the programs.

Mount Everett assistant Dan Lanoue has been coaching with the Eagles program for 18 years alongside head coach Dave Lupiani. Both are Everett grads; Lanoue wrestled for the Eagles and graduated in 1991, wrestling for two years after that at Western New England before returning to the fold in Sheffield.

Now 41, Lanoue is also a substitute teacher at Mount Everett and an outdoor worker in the summer. In the winter, he's on the mats with some of Everett's heavier wrestlers, being that he's the heavier of the two coaches.

What brought him back almost two decades ago?

"For us, I think it's the loyalty to the school," Lanoue said. "We're a very small school. We're the only Berkshire County wrestling school that doesn't co-op with other schools. The loyalty to get our name out there is something we take pride in."

That pride isn't exclusive to Sheffield, and southern Berkshire County is better for it on the mats.

Monument Mountain head coach Gordie Soule is a former Spartan wrestler, and was a state champion at 140 pounds in 1985. Two of his assistant coaches, David Colli and Simon Jones, also wrestled at Monument. All three have helped the Spartan program return to the top of the county standings, where it hadn't been alone since 1999.

Jones, 28, has been an assistant for Monument since 2007, having taken 2010 off. A 2004 MMRHS graduate, Jones wrestled for former coach Ed Barrett, as well as Soule. He was a two-year wrestler at 103 pounds, and he moved up to 119 his senior year.

His other job Friday gave him section-wide responsibilities to add to his Monument duties: clerk of the Western Mass. Division III meet in Holyoke.

He still gets on the mats at practice, as do all the Monument coaches. It's a unique wrinkle wrestling has that many other sports don't; for example, football assistant coaches may have their players hit the sleds, but they won't line up as a 3-technique against their offensive guards in hitting drills.

"Wrestling is one of the sports where you practice as hard as you do in competition," Jones said. "It's the only way to get a feel for what it's like when you get out there on the mat.

"There's a lot of coaches, not just at the high school level, who still actively participate in competition."

Miller's responsibilities may not put him on the mats as much as the others -- he's joined on the Greylock staff by John Carvalho Jr., Randy Ransford and Anthony Carvalho -- but his role definitely makes Mount Greylock a visible program.

Miller, who works in network operations for National Land Partners in Williamstown, also handles videotaping matches, website and social media updates, and was one of the founders of MassWrestling.com. If you're a wrestler with Internet access in the Berkshires, you've likely read through MassWrestling's rankings.

The effect of the digital age is "huge, in my opinion," Miller said. "Within the sport locally, maybe Western Mass., I think it's underestimated."

Miller makes sure to upload every match to the Mounties' private social media groups as a teaching tool. That way, the more experienced wrestlers become teachers the same way the coaches are.

Transitioning from wrestler to coach, though, can be an arduous process. For Lanoue, the most important lesson learned early on was that not every kid on the mat is the same as he was as an Eagle.

"The will is not there right away," he said. "They can't do the things I could do when I was a senior.

"You have to teach them."

To reach Matthew Sprague:
msprague@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6254.
On Twitter: @BE_MSprague.