Recently, the question “How do I get college programs to notice my son?” was asked on a local wrestling forum.
The question had me thinking for days.
Here is my answer – it is a two part answer.
The second part will be more important than the first.
My answer is not intended to slight or degrade any person or program. Please do not read between the lines. This is only meant to guide a family looking to find the right fit for their student athlete. When I refer to son, I am also referring to daughters as well.
First, to be noticed by a college in wrestling you will need to consistently place in the following events:
FLO Nationals, Fargo, Super 32, NHSCA, High School State Tournament, Eastern States (for NY Wrestlers), and other major national wrestling tournaments.
You win/place consistently, they will come.
The earlier in your high school career, the better.
Accolades in your Freshmen year will get you on the radar.
Accolades in your sophomore year will get you on the short list.
Accolades in your Junior year will get you exactly what you are looking for.
Accolades in your Senior year will get you scratching your head.
That is because they will occur AFTER the signing period for the most part.
I once asked a major coach what he saw in a certain wrestler and his answer was simply “He wins.”
Now for the second part, which is the more important part.
I believe the right question to ask is not “How do I get college programs to notice my son”, but rather “What do you notice about a college program that would want you to trust a college program with your son?”
I believe, it is not about a coach finding you – it is about you finding a coach.
The formula is quite simple, the execution is difficult.
College wrestling is about one thing – coaching.
There is no right or wrong coach for everyone.
Your goal is to place your son with the best college coach for him no matter what division – D1, D2, D3.
It doesn’t matter.
What matters is that you change your thinking. You are not interviewing for a position, you are the Interviewer. You are the one seeking out what you want, not the other way around.
What matters is that you pick the coach/program that will make your son better.
A better wrestler.
A better young man.
What matters is that you pick a college coach/program that will teach your son to set a goal, to work hard and to commit himself to achieve that goal; to be in pursuit of greatness. His greatness, which is different for every person. All, while being happy and loving the sport more than when he started at the program.
What matters is the coach you select will instill confidence and inspire your son to levels you and he never thought possible.
What matters is the program will breed a sense of family and belonging.
What matters is you match your son with the right motivation methods that are best for him to succeed.
There are coaches who attempt to motivate with a carrot and there are coaches who attempt to motivate with a stick.
Determine which motivation method will develop your son the best.
Do not attempt to place a wrestler who has a carrot personality with a coach who motivates with a stick.
It will not work.
There is a difference between Terry Brands and Cael Sanderson. Both are extremely successful. But I would venture to say they recruit a different type of wrestling personality. I don’t believe that David Taylor would have been as successful wrestling for Coach Brands just as much as I believe Tony Ramos wouldn’t have become Tony Ramos wrestling for Coach Sanderson. Just as I believe Kyven Gadson became a NCAA Champion because he wrestled for Kevin Jackson – whom I believe was the right coach for him.
So how do you know which program/coach is the right fit for your son?
Unfortunately, the honest answer is that you won’t completely know.
But you can have a much better chance of getting the fit right by inspecting a few things.
First, start out with the roster of the program over the last 5 years.
Compare it year over year.
Inspect the roster to see the turnover rate. How many wrestlers left the program?
Ask those questions.
Ask them to the coach and ask them to the wrestlers who left.
Yes, this requires some work but it is a major event in your son’s life, it will be worth the effort to get the right fit.
Secondly, look at the hometowns of the wrestlers on the roster.
Are they all from the same state? Are you part of that state?
Understand that the number one obstacle of most college wrestling coaches is attendance. Understand that people go to wrestling matches to watch wrestlers they know and have followed for most of their careers. When talent is even, the coach will go with the local wrestler to fill the stands. It is just human nature.
Third, on the roster look for familiar names.
Did they improve during their time there, or did they underachieve?
Remember underachieving is a two-way street. Underachieving means that the fit was not right for either the wrestler or the coach, or both. How often has this happened?
Now look for wrestlers that you know who overachieved.
This is due to the fit being right for both the wrestler and the coach.
How many times did this happen? Is there a pattern, a style or personality of wrestler who underachieves or overachieves in the program? Does your son fit the pattern?
Next, you need to determine the most important thing. Do you believe the coach/program will be committed to developing your son through the good and bad or will they be the first to say “Next”?
The biggest difference between high school and college wrestling is that the high school wrestling coach has to develop the wrestlers in their room.
The college coach does not.
The college coach has an endless supply of wrestlers waiting for an opportunity.
The right coach/program will commit to developing their wrestlers and understands that the journey is not always on path and will not reflexively say “Next” at the first sign of adversity.
Communicate with a wrestler who was injured during his time at the program.
How was he treated? This is how your son will be treated. Are you OK with that?
Next, determine the belief level of the prospective coach/program.
This – you have to keep an open eye too.
You need to watch matches of the program you are considering.
Watch the body language of the coaches. Is it obvious that they have given up on any wrestler?
Watch the coaching style, watch the communication style.
The answers will all be there.
Can you see your son growing under the coaching style?
Now inspect the football and basketball teams of the school you are considering.
With little exception (Cornell and Edinboro are two that come to mind), the stronger the football and basketball teams are from the school, the better the program will be.
It is quite simple.
The money is made by the school in football and basketball.
I’m not saying that a school can’t have a successful wrestling program without a good football or basketball team.
But they don’t.
This is, unfortunately, a pattern that runs true.
Money for a sports program will be generated and shared by the football and basketball programs. This is an important factor, don’t overlook it.
Next, consider the job placement history of the program.
Ultimately, this is what it is all about. Ask if there is such a history in the program.
If not, why not?
One last observation.
If you want to be noticed – be a better student than you are an athlete.
The best part of the absolute increase in talent coming out of Long Island the last few years has been their ability to parlay their accolades into a quality “turbo-boosted” education; being able to attend schools they may not have had the chance of attending without wrestling.
I could go on and on…
Remember you are the one doing the interviewing.
Determine what you are looking for and get your answers.
Then trust that the answers that you get will be the future environment in which your son will develop.
You determine the right fit as best as you can.
So, ultimately, the right question is not how to get a college program to notice your son, the right question that should be asked is “What do you notice about a college program that would want you to send your son there for 5 of the most important years of his life?”
Once you have figured this out, the rest is easy.
Read The First 3 Chapters Online
One of the greatest assets in my life, other than my family and friends has been the sport of wrestling.
It has made me into the person I am today.
A person who can handle whatever adversity life throws at me.
The disciplines of wrestling are impactful on a young athlete’s life.
At first, one wrestles to win championships.
Then, after many years, one realizes it wasn’t the pursuit of championships that wrestling was all about –wrestling is about preparing you for life.
I owe a great deal to this sport, that is why I write about it so passionately.
I have written about the sport in my memoirs,
“6 Minutes Wrestling with Life,” “Again,” and “Your Soul Knows,” and I continue to write about it in this blog.
This book is a compilation of all my writing on the sport.
The book is designed to be read like each chapter is a short story, separate from one another.
Chapters can be read in order or randomly, that is your preference.
The first fifteen stories originate from my blog, and the last thirteen chapters, starting with “Overtime or Over Time?” are excerpts from my memoirs.
I felt it was necessary to compile all my writing of this great sport under one cover.
The chapters that are excerpts of my other books have been slightly edited to preserve the integrity of the story they come from.
I hope you enjoy reading “Wrestling Writing,” as much as I have enjoyed living it.