Wrestling Blog : State Champ or Bust?
How much will a state championship help college recruitment
I had an interesting conversation with one of my wrestlers last week which lead me to the topic of this blog. Obviously with the uncertainty of a wrestling season this year, High school wrestlers who had high expectations for themselves are worried. For some this is their last chance at winning a Sectional or State title and for others they are just looking to continue to build upon what they have started and last years results. I had a wrestler come to me upset and say that with the loss of this season he will only have 1 shot at winning at state title. He is currently a Junior and been working hard to better himself each year. So , I asked him " Is a state title your only goal in wrestling ? " He thought for a minute and replied " No , he would like to wrestle in college as well " . But he then went on to add that he really wanted to win a state title and felt it would now be near impossible . He hasn't even placed high at sectionals yet and is a Junior.
As a coach , I was lucky enough to have an example for him that was very close to home. Last season we had a kid from our own section who has never won sectionals in the past, go on and not only win sectionals but then win a state title as a senior. I used that as an example for him and that should be a great example for anyone who thinks something like that is not possible. In the state tournament each year there are some Brackets which are harder than others. Things happen as well as Injuries . In that Bracket in particular there was a clear cut #1 seed and favorite to win it all but beneath that wrestler it was a toss up. That #1 seed got injured in his first match of the state tournament and from there on it was anyones game. Of the 2 kids who ended up in the finals , 1 didnt even face a top #10 seed until up until then and had never won sectionals before or been to states and the other had been to states but never even placed. So, I said to my wrestler, I don't think either of those kids planned to be in the finals nor did most people but it happened. In this sport anything can happen and as long as you train hard that could be you. That goal will always be attainable.
That also brings me back to another experience I had with a college coach during recruitment with my own kids. When they were young and beginning their high school wrestling days , we started meeting with coaches. I remember talking with this coach about recruits and who he was interested in from our area and who he wasn't . What kids might be wrestling Division 1 and who might not and of course who would be in line for a scholarship. The coach almost started mocking me when I talked about state champions. I was pretty close with this coach already but Im thinking ..... whats up with this guy ,Doesn't he value state champions? It wasn't until years later and watching how kids I knew did in college rooms that I understood why he did that. Every year in NY , we have 30 state Champions crowned. Out of those 30 , maybe 4 -5 go on to wrestle at the Division 1 level in college and out of those, maybe 1-2 end up starting for a team one day. While being a state champion is a great accomplishment , it is not the end all be all and there is still hope. Do kids who do not win state championships still go on and wrestle in college? Sure, many wrestle at the Division 2 and 3 levels. There are also a couple each year who never won a state title and still go on and wrestle for a Division 1 school. I have one in my home. My 2nd oldest son had a bracket in his state championship that had the top 3 finishers all wrestle for Division 1 programs. You never know , you could just be in a tough bracket at States. What I came to find out is that it is not a single state championship that these College coaches are looking at when evaluating wrestlers or if you win one or not. It is their total body of work. They aren't looking for a one hit wonder. They want kids who have been working hard for years and who have been battle tested and proven themselves by winning against high level competition.
So what does this mean? It means that if we have no season this year or state championship , that you should still be working hard and competing anywhere you can. There are still plenty of private tournaments going on and anytime you can go to any tournament and knock off a State champion or nationally ranked guy, that is a recruiting tool for you. Wins like that are what college coaches are looking to see. If you win a state championship but haven't beaten a top ranked guy it doesn't hold much water. So if your a wrestler with aspirations , keep working. You can absolutely win a state title next year and if you have time , you can still build that resume to wrestle in college at private run tournaments.
Now , about that resume that wrestlers are building. Don't expect to start to practice hard when your in high school and all of a sudden be able to hang with these wrestlers that have been putting the work in at the youth level. I have parents come to me all the time and think their kid can just practice here or there and then a flip a switch when they turn 15 and all will be well. It doesn't work that way and much of what the kids gain at the youth level is the mental toughness needed to practice hard and compete against high level opponents. They are used to having tough matches and things not going right. So what happens if your a senior and you don't have that resume just yet? All is not lost , you can wrestle at the D2 or D3 level and continue to build it. There are many wrestlers who begin their college days at the D3 or D2 level and transfer after 2-3 successful years. It is still not an easy transition and I have seen local kids who dominated at the D3 level go on to not even sniff the starting lineup at the D1 level. It is a completely different level. But there is always a chance and if that is your goal , a chance should be enough reason not to give up on it. I have seen some high schoolers say they are not practicing anymore because we may not have a season this year.... I wonder what their resume looks like and how they will do next year? Don't be that wrestler, Stay the coarse , stay focused on your goals and go get them!