NORMAL — Trevor Von Bruenchenhein displayed plenty of youthful exuberance Monday after being promoted to head coach of the University High School football team.
“I’m not going to say it’s surprising but … I’m at a loss for words, I’m so excited,” said the 23-year-old Von Bruenchenhein, who becomes the 11th head coach in Pioneers history. “I want to get going. I’m pumped, I’m ready to go.”
Von Bruenchenhein (BREK-in-hine) spent the past five years as an assistant at U High, with the Pioneers posting a 44-10 record over that span. He served as defensive coordinator and secondary coach this season.
“I want to get farther in the playoffs and win more conference championships, but I am taking over a program that is already successful,” said Von Broenchenhein, a faculty associate in U High’s social sciences department who graduated from Illinois State in 2014. “I just want to sustain that success, that’s my goal and my intention.”
Von Bruenchenhein takes over for Mike Troll, who went 15-5 in two seasons after replacing Dusty Burk. Troll will remain on the U High staff as Von Bruenchenhein expects to retain all current assistants.
“In my opinion, it was time for a change,” said Troll, who will also continue to coach wrestling at U High. “We’re not going to be drastically different but he will bring some changes in and I think that’s healthy and refreshing for any program.”
U High athletic director Wendy Smith said Troll “did an awesome job” in his two seasons after Burk left to become assistant principal at Pontiac High School.
“I’m very thankful for Mike being willing to step up and take the head position,” she said. “Mike’s a great coach and he relates really well with the kids. He teaches them more than just football.”
Smith said Von Bruenchenhein’s ability to connect with players, combined with his experience on the staff, makes him an ideal choice.
“He relates really well with the kids and the kids have a lot of respect for him,” said Smith. “He brings an energy to the program that you see a lot of times when you go with a younger coach. He’s definitely a student of the game.”
Von Bruenchenhein said he has tried to absorb as much as possible from Burk and Troll.
“They’ve really been grooming me for this position, whether they were conscious of it or not,” he said. “I’ve definitely been listening to what they’re saying and watching what they’ve done, learning from their successes – and even their failures, but I don’t want them to take that negatively.
“They’ve taught me so much and I am so grateful for all the experiences they’ve given me an opportunity to have under their watch.”
A native of Spring Grove, Von Bruenchenhein played linebacker at Richmond-Burton High School, reaching the Class 4A semifinals in his junior and senior seasons for Rockets coach Patrick Elder.
Troll said Von Bruenchenhein has “that old-school mentality” that fosters a fondness for defense in an era when offenses continue to become more prolific.
“Everyone’s so excited and awe-struck by offense, you like the nature of trying to prevent that from happening and I take a lot of pride in that,” Von Bruenchenhein said. “I think the attitude of defensive players is much more grittier, a lot tougher.
“That’s what I perceived in myself; I’m a small guy, only like 180 pounds. I couldn’t rely on my physical prowess to succeed, so I had to adopt that attitude. I think every defensive coach at every level is always preaching that mentality: nastiness, toughness and grit. I just love that.”
Offensively, Von Bruenchenhein doesn’t anticipate making any drastic changes.
“I don’t think there’s any reason to change anything we’ve done. As far as scheme goes, that’s going to stay the same,” he said. “I think a lot of people watching from the stands are going to say this looks like the familiar U High.”