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PETALUMA — Walk softly and carry a big whistle-tweety-thingy, that’s Paul Schloesser’s M.O.

Petaluma High’s new wrestling coach doesn’t yell and doesn’t even use a regular whistle — that would impede his ability to talk his way through drills, explaining motion and technique to his young squad along the way. So he uses a tweet-maker he sets off with his hand.

Schloesser, who has the unenviable job of following the legendary Denny Plyler as wrestling coach at Petaluma High School after the latter’s 40 years at the helm, isn’t intent on throwing out the old and remaking the program in his own image.

He doesn’t have to.

“It’s funny, they are very similar,” said longtime assistant and head girls coach Mike Butts. “In comparison to me, I’m loud and boisterous and they are rather quiet. I think that has a lot to do with them being educators, being teachers.”

Schloesser teaches special education at Petaluma High.

Butts, who spent nearly 20 years as Plyler’s right-hand man, said neither man is prone to a lot of shouting and hollering. They are both more focused on instructing, demonstrating, explaining.

And Schloesser, who spent time as an assistant at Windsor High and was co-head coach at Redwood High before coming to Petaluma, said he’s still keen on learning, despite a lifetime immersed in the sport.

“This is my 10th year of coaching,” he said. “Over the years, I have changed. I’m learning how to adapt with the sport.”

“It’s like chess,” he said. “Everything you do on the mat, your opponent is looking to counter what you are going to do.”

“Kids are hitting these crazy moves now. We have to change the way we react,” he said.

One thing Schloesser is unashamedly pushing this year is strength and fitness in his squad.

They run more, and not just around the mats. They hit the road together regularly on what the team calls “water tower runs.” They lift weights more frequently and they put in workouts well before the season officially started.

“A lot of times even our best wrestlers, what they are lacking is physical strength,” Butts said.

A lack of fitness not only robbed them of strength in the past, it also robbed them of technique because many wrestlers were too tired to absorb the skills being taught.

“They pay attention longer because they are not tired at practice,” Butts said. “They have already seen the improvement with the conditioning we put in.”

Junior Jack Reynolds said the work isn’t exactly a ball when they are doing it, but he can already feel things clicking.

“I don’t like it when we are doing it but it will help us in the end, so when it really counts, it will pay off,” he said.

And sometimes it’s good just to get out of the gym.

“We run outside a lot,” freshman Connor Pedersen said. “I like it, it’s a change of scenery.”

Pedersen finished fifth at the Green and Gold Tournament at San Marin High in Novato on Dec. 12.

In some ways, Schloesser has turned fitness on its head. Win a drill or competition at practice? The loser watches as the winner does push ups. The idea is that fitness is not something to get out of, but something to crave because of its ability to make a wrestler better, stronger.

He’s also pushing kids to get in shape and stay in shape. Offseason workouts, offseason nutrition awareness, offseason focus on health.

“In the past, the kids have gotten so soft in the offseason we couldn’t get them past 10 minutes of conditioning because the kids were so out of shape,” Butts said.

But Schloesser is quick to give respect to the program Plyler built and the assistant coaches who remain a constant. He also credited parents who work on things like fundraising so he doesn’t have to. In short, he’s trying to build on a program. Not build a program in his own image, but build on a program crafted with care and respect over time.

“I’m willing to change and I’m willing to learn,” he said.

Sometimes change is hard, but sometimes change is good, too.

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 526-8671 or kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com, on Twitter @benefield and on Instagram at kerry.benefield. Podcasting on iTunes “Overtime with Kerry Benefield.”