When Alex Clemsen sat down for his introductory press conference as the new Maryland wrestling head coach Monday, his smile grew wide.
After 10 years as an assistant at Virginia and Missouri, he had earned the chance to lead his own program.
The self-described “communicator” expressed excitement at the opportunity — and challenge — of taking over the Terps. But for a seasoned recruiter who has helped secure three top-10 classes so far in his career, Clemsen feels he’s an ideal fit to rebuild the program from the ground up.
“I’m excited to have that pressure, that opportunity, that challenge,” Clemsen said. “Ultimately it’s my vision that gets to be expressed and the opportunity to really show people that I’ve got the ability to compete at the highest level, not as an assistant or as an associate, but as a head coach.”
Along with former coach Kerry McCoy — who stepped down in March — the departures of key contributors such as Ryan Diehl, Alfred Bannister and two-time All-American Youssif Hemida hangs over the team.
Clemsen inherits a Maryland roster absent of any NCAA tournament qualifiers. However, the Terps do return a plethora of competitors who saw action in tournaments and duals. Clemsen knows those issues won’t be resolved overnight, but he recognizes and appreciates the significance of the wrestlers who are currently with the team.
“They are the most important young men to me in the country right now,” Clemsen said. “They are the future of the program, they are the foundation, they are the building blocks. It won’t be the first recruiting class, it won’t be the second recruiting class that changes Maryland wrestling. It is the guys that are here right now that are returning that are going to buy into myself and my vision and my staff’s commitment to them.”
As a Missouri native, Clemsen returned to his state’s flagship school in 2014 and helped the Tigers to an 84-7 record during his tenure, both as an assistant and associate head coach.
During that time, Clemsen became a renowned recruiter across the country. He’s looking to bring that success to the Terps, especially after Lucas Byrd, the No. 21 recruit in the country according to FloWrestling, decommitted last month.
“I’m looking for kids at every weight at every age that want to do things the right way and compete in the greatest conference in the country,” Clemsen said. “I don’t care where they’re from or what their background is, I want the best and the brightest.”
While at Missouri, Clemsen used his social media accounts to help cultivate a rabid fanbase. Now, he’s bringing that platform to his new team.
Taking inspiration from Maryland’s mascot, Clemsen has found a way to link the terrapin to a quartet of famous reptiles, using it as a potential rallying cry for the team: #TurtlePower.
“It’s definitely a fun hashtag,” Clemsen said. “It plays well on the age of recruits right now and young alums. You see all the superhero movies, and they even brought [the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles] back. I’m hoping they’re gonna make another one. It’s definitely the branding we’ll put forth for a while, and hopefully it’ll catch and people will like it.”
After years of dwindling attendance and meager results, the energetic Clemsen wants to harness #TurtlePower and use his personality to build a culture that rekindles excitement in Maryland, while helping the Terps finally find their footing in the Big Ten, a conference they’ve gone 1-44 in.
“I’ll put a challenge out there,” Clemsen said. “I’m going to challenge the fans and the supporters to show up and to believe in this thing and to get behind us and support us as we grow and build together … Don’t just get it on it down the road, get in on it now. Be first.”