Ok , so Im here to give you the no Bullsh*t , pull no punches view on the college recruiting process. Once you are all in on the sport of wrestling the goal usually ends up being wrestling for college one day. Growing up , I was always a Jock who loved playing sports and dreamed of playing in the NBA or NFL one day , Celebrity status and making millions. In the sport of Wrestling the end goal isn't a pro career, and we don't have million dollar contracts waiting for us, so one of the biggest payoffs you'r gonna be able to get from the sport is a college education.
As a parent and coach of a couple kids who ended up competing in the sport of wrestling at a high level, I had to familiarize myself with the recruiting process and as a family we got to a point where we had to sit down and really talk about what the end goal and best payoff could be. All that being said, let's start at the beginning.
I can break the entire recruiting and college selection process down into 3 steps. 1. Winning , 2. Grades and 3. Marketing . Before you think about any of this stuff, you need to think realistically about where you want to go to school and what you want to get out of it. For some it might be that they just want to wrestle for the best program. Others may want to move, go to school and live somewhere nice for 4 years , some may want the best education they can get. Some may want to get a big scholarship. As a parent , I wanted to be sure we used this as an opportunity to open doors at the college level which may have normally been closed. To give the wrestlers not only a chance to compete at the college level but to also put them in a good position when the wrestling is over. Because 4 years down the line , it will be over.
Step 1. WINNING . Let's be realistic , you probably aren't going to be competing at the college level to any degree if you cannot win in high school and are not above a .500 during the season. If you are winning and placing high at States numerous times , you may have a shot at wrestling in Division 1. If you have placed high at sectionals and gone on to compete at states but maybe have none done well there or placed lower, you are more likely to be wrestling Division 2 or 3. If you aren't placing high at the sectional or regional level every year , it is going to be very hard to be recruited but you may still be able to walk on to a Division 3 college team. We have a local college team at Castleton College in VT which has a newer program and they pretty much take just about anyone interested in wrestling beyond High School. So if your goal is to merely keep wrestling, there are opportunities for everyone. Unfortunately if you are out of state you may end up with a bill at the end of the 4 years so be sure what you end up with at the end of it all is worth it. Winning or not winning is what is going to limit those opportunities.
STEP 2. GRADES . One more thing that is going to help get you into more opportunities during the recruiting and selection process is your grades. I have seen wrestlers who will never be in a Division 1 starting lineup get onto a team on grades alone. Don't get me wrong , these guys can wrestle , but they probably wouldn't have been recruited without the grades. What kind of grades do you need? First lets talk about curriculum. You need to be taking the right classes. Colleges aren't just looking to see that your getting all A's . They look at what classes you are taking. It is better to get A's and B's in a tougher curriculum sometimes than straight A's taking all easy classes. SAT's . The better you'r scores the better the opportunities. You want these test scores to be high enough to give you more opportunities , not take them away from you. Scoring above a 1200 should be the goal and if you can get to a 1300 and above ,more doors will open. Take plenty of practice tests, get a tutor to work with a few times before the test and take the test 2-3 times to ensure you get the best score possible.
STEP 3. MARKETING . Wrestlers really have 4-6 years to market themselves to prospective college coaches. College coaches aren't recruiting youth wrestlers. They want to see what you have done at the high school level. So during those 4-6 years while you are competing you need to stand out. How do you stand out? It is going to be hard to market yourself if you are not winning. Some coaches tell all their kids to go to Fargo.... UMMM... traveling across the country and paying thousands to not place is not going to make you stand out to coaches. If you aren't winning or placing on the state level, I am not sure how you would expect to on a national level and a college coach is smart enough to evaluate you by who you have beaten in terms of quality of opponent. We aren't going to get into how to develop yourself or how to win in this blog so we are going to expect at this point , you have done what it takes to win on the mat if your aspirations are to wrestle in college.
Beyond winning you will need to get on a coaches radar in other ways. Do not leave this up to your club coach or high school coach. Make yourself a list of 20 colleges you would like to attend. Be realistic , if your grades suck and you haven't won much , your looking at Division 3. If you are winning some and your Grades are excellent and test scores are good, reach out to some D1, D2,D3 , you never know . If your winning or placing high at the State level , reach out to the top 20 schools on your list but know that unless your grades are good, your options may still be limited. How do we reach out? Go to the colleges website and go to the wrestling team page. Most schools will have a recruit questionnaire on the page, fill one out for all schools you may be interested in. That will get you into the programs database and will get them to look into you. On the schools website you will also be able to find the coaches email . If you feel you have what it takes to get on a particular team, it would be wise to send this coach an email. If your getting the grades needed , the test scores and won on the level you think is desired for that team , send the coach an email describing yourself, your aspirations and let him know what you have done . Coaches like the kid willing to go the extra mile. How else can you market yourself or set yourself apart from the rest? If you are winning at the high level , it would then help to hit some bigger tournaments and win against national level competition. I don't suggest this to guys not winning at the state level yet, the money can be put elsewhere to help you develop as a wrestler.
When you get to the point of actually making your decision to choose a school , do it based on your needs, wants and goals.Think beyond wrestling . College coaches also have a job to do , and they may not all be honest with you on what they can offer or a school offers. Do your research for yourself so you know exactly what you are getting into and god forbid you get injured or do not want to wrestle anymore, you will know you have chosen a school for more than just what the wrestling program offers.
In my families case , we did a ton of research and met and got to know some of the coaches very well. In my oldest sons case , he ended up not choosing the best wrestling program but chose one of the top academic schools in the world. He also is very big into MMA so put himself in a location where he would be close to some of the best Martial arts schools in the world. The school would have been near impossible to get into without both wrestling and grades.
When it came to my next son going off to school , he had a different mindset. He chose to go a school with a better wrestling program and Coach. This was a little more important to him so we spent alot of time with this coach prior. This way we had really got to know him well prior to this decision and knew he was not only a man of his word but also a guy who told things how they were. Pulled no punches . Going to a in state Public College rather than a private school you are also available to a cheaper tuition and scholarships for both Athletics and Academics which can be very helpful. Nobody wants to be left with a huge debt after graduating college.
Once you get things narrowed down and get a good idea of what options may be available it would be a great idea to go to those programs summer camps and clinics. Hopefully at this point the programs will have reached out to you in some way. It may have been a phone call or letter and some programs will send you invites to their camps and clinics as well. Go to these things, get to know the coaching staff and team. They may still need to see you wrestle in person to know what you are capable of so this is only going to help your chances.
These are the basics. If you think or plan to wrestle in college and your coaches have not covered this stuff with you , it's time to get to work. I could branch out and go more in depth on these 3 topics but am not looking to make this a 10 minute read for you, but to give you an idea and starting point to the process. I tell all of my wrestlers to think beyond wrestling when choosing a school. Get yourself into a better school than you could have without the sport. Let the sport help you open doors that would otherwise be closed. One mistake I see some of the locals parents make is signing up for websites that claim to help a kid get seen and recruited by college coaches.These are crap and just around to take your money. I did some research into one of the top ones and they had zero ties to actual wrestling programs or coaches in any way. If you think you still need help with the recruiting process give us a call. We would be happy to help.