BUCKHANNON – Any assistant head coach longs one day to become a head coach.
To have the opportunity to run a program that way he chooses.
For Tony Testa, he is getting that opportunity right now at West Virginia Wesleyan College.
With the Bobcat wrapping up their second week of practice, Testa is putting his fingerprints on the Bobcat program.
Following an 11-year journey as an assistant coach, Testa was named the head coach at his Alma Mater when previous coach Del Smith resigned this past January.
“It was really humbling and a big honor to be named head coach at Wesleyan,” remarked Testa. “I played here and I have coached here. Just having the family atmosphere that we have here at Wesleyan is really, really helpful. I feel like being named head coach is me embracing a bigger role with the family and getting the chance to see all the people that take pride in this place like I do. I share the same vision that the administration has. I think that is really helpful too because you don’t feel like you have to battle them. We both want to provide our students with a great experience. Everything we do as a program is dedicated ourselves is improving their experience and making sure they are better off in four years than when they arrived.”
Testa, a native of Parkersburg, played under legendary Wesleyan coach Bill Struble and was a part of the 2002 and 2003 WVIAC championship football teams.
His first coaching position was at Marietta College in 2007 where he served as a graduate assistant.
Following time at The Apprentice School and Baldwin-Wallace College, Testa returned to Wesleyan in 2013 becoming the offensive line coach.
Testa said there has been a learning curve in making the transition from assistant coach to head coach.
“Given the time of when I was hired in January, I really didn’t have a lot of time to sit back and think about the new job,” said Testa. “We were just a few weeks out from signing day and we had to focus on keeping our building on our recruiting class. That was my first big challenge as head coach. I was really lucky to learn as an assistant coach from George Shehl and Del Smith. They taught me a lot about the administrative side of things and how to hurdle things when they come at you. I think the biggest change is you actually deal less at times with the game of football and more with administrative tasks and handling meetings.”
Anytime a new coaching staff comes on board, there will be some retention issues with the team roster, but Testa said that he and his staff were able to keep the core of the team together through this transition period.
“We were able to keep a pretty good group of core guys together,” commented Testa. “I am really excited about who is coming back along with the freshmen class that we brought in.”
Testa’s staff will have some familiarity to it for the players.
Joining him this year will be Dwayne Martin, Mark Jochum, Logan Williams, Cortney Roberts, Vernard Williams, Marcus Spearman, David Nooks and Garrett Perkins.
Wesleyan is coming off a 1-10 season last year, but lost four games by three points each.
They lost their three-point games to Concord (34-31), West Liberty (37-34), Fairmont State (44-41) and Glenville State (36-33).
Their lone victory came over fourth-place the University of Charleston in a 27-26 win.
“Battling and winning in the Mountain East Conference is a war of attrition,” remarked Testa. “You are just hoping to get a lucky break, have a bounce to go your way and stay healthy. The competition level in the MEC is to tight. From top to bottom you have to show up every Saturday to play.”
The Bobcats were selected to finish 10th out of 11 teams in the MEC preseason coaches poll.
The Bobcats will get their season underway Saturday, Sept. 7 when they host Urbana at noon.
They will follow that up with their first road game of the season, playing up a division as they battle Davidson College Saturday, Sept. 14 at 7 p.m.
Davidson plays at the FCS level and are coming off a 6-5 season.