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wrestlingnerd

D1 performance of California colleges

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I have always wondered why D1 colleges in California do not perform better at nationals. While it's no PA or OH, CA is a strong HS wresting state with a large talent pool of potential recruits, and CA is one of the most desirable college locations. The number of D1 programs could be part of the issue, with Stanford having a similarly difficult recruiting situation to that of the Ivies in that it has to find wrestlers who are both athletically and academically gifted. That said, I am still surprised that CA colleges do not perform better.

 

Off the top, I can think of a CA HS wrestler ranked in the top 10 (or close) in D1 this year for half of the college weight classes:

 

125: Nahshon Garrett (Cornell),Nikko Triggas (tOSU)

149: Scott Sakaguchi (Oregon State)

184: Mike Larson (Missouri), Ryan Loder (UNI)

197: Jake Meredith (ASU)

HWT: JT Felix (Boise State)

 

I may be missing a few but am too lazy to check.

 

Using Flo's rankings, in HS, 220 is the only weight where a CA kid is not in the top 20 nationally. Here are the number of CA HS wrestlers ranked in the top 20 at every weight:

 

106: 1

113: 2

120: 3

126: 1

132: 4

138: 1

145: 1

152: 1

160: 1

170: 4

182: 1

195: 0

220: 2

HW: 1

 

They have the #1 guy in the country at 113 (Zahid Valencia) and at 132 (Aaron Pico), and they have a close #2 at 160 (Isaiah Martinez, who is behind top 2-3 recruit at any weight Bo Jordan of OH). They are stacked at 120, 132, and 170.

 

If you include the states in the West Coast as prime recruiting ground for CA colleges, the talent pool is even larger while there is much less concentration of D1 programs than in the Midwest and the East Coast.

 

I can't even remember the last time a CA school placed in the top 10 at nationals, and I've been following college wrestling for over 25 years. If one school in Arizona can regularly produce a top college wrestling team, why can't CA as a state do the same?

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If you look at the top programs in the country, the vast majority of them fit the following critera:

 

1) Public schools that are the (or one of the) major institutions in the state

2) Elite coach

 

There is no school in CA that fits this profile. If you took a Cael or a Koll or a Smith or a Brands and let them start a program at UCLA or Cal, it would be a Top 5 program within one recruiting cycle. Stanford is too hard to get into (closer to Harvard or Princeton than it is to Cornell). Cal Poly just got a new coach (not a big name), is not a big name school outside of the state, and Bakersfield and the coach are not big draws nationally or even locally.

 

It is no different than NJ never having a great team, or NY not having a great team until Koll got going. Right school, right coach, you have a winning team. That doesn't exist in CA right now.

 

You are absolutely correct on the overall talent level in CA. (You didn't even mention some of the current redshirts: McIntosh, Cisneros, Reyes and so on.) It's a shame that these kids don't have more opportunities to stay local.

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#1 reason - financial support. You can break it down anyway you want to but without 9.9 scholarships and money to fund at least 3 paid coaches and a system to get a volunteer coach funded, everything else is moot.

 

I don't believe any school in CA has 9.9 scholarships. Most don't fund more than 1 coach. I know Cal Poly has to fund-raise for their head assistant coach.

 

Bring back Fresno State, UCLA, Cal, and USC. Give them a full paid staff and 9.9 scholarships and you'd see California schools consistently in the Top 10, if not higher. Heck, give Stanford 9.9 scholarships and it wouldn't take long before they consistently were a Top 10 team.

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Adam, thanks for your post. Unless I'm mistaken, I believe you started your career at Stanford before transferring to Illinois. If you'll indulge my curiosity, was the move mainly wrestling-related?

 

How many scholarships do the California D1 schools get? Your explanation makes a lot of sense to me now that I know these schools are not getting their full share of scholarships.

 

OCGrappler, I knew I'd missed a few. Brain fart. There's probably more we're both forgetting.

 

Regarding Stanford, I totally get that having the full 9.9 scholarships helps schools attract top recruits even if their parents can otherwise afford tuition. And I fully admit to not having any inside information on how the program is financed, so I may be out of line here. That said, since admission at Stanford is needs-blind as it is at all the Ivies, is that really the main reason behind their inability to live up to the potential of a program at a school like Stanford?

 

OCG, I disagree with you that Stanford is too hard to get into to produce a top 10 team. While it's true that for the average student Stanford is harder to get into than all the wrestling Ivies except Harvard and Princeton, Stanford is also notoriously easier to get into for elite athletes among the "Ivy Plus" top academic schools. This may only apply to sports that the administration fully supports, and wrestling may not be one of them, but few elite schools place as much emphasis on their athletic programs as Stanford. Also, without mentioning any names, I know of at least a dozen solid HS prospects over the past seven or eight years who got into Stanford but went to another "Ivy Plus" school with better wrestling instead -- specifically, Northwestern, Cornell, and Penn. A couple of them chose Harvard and even Princeton, which does not have better wrestling than Stanford. So it's not like Stanford lost those guys because they couldn't get in. They were out-recruited. By the way, three of those kids went on to become AAs. One of them, whom I can mention because his admission to Stanford is public information (was included on his college bio page), is Dustin Fox, who became an NCAA champ.

 

I totally get that finding exceptional student-athletes is very hard, an we may never see one of the top academic schools become national champions. But on the flip side, the education at the top schools is so compelling that for the minority of the kids who can get in, the top schools have a very strong recruiting advantage too. Also, for the exceptional HS athlete, the academic bar is lower, even at Harvard. For those reasons as well as the reasons I noted in my original post, I agree with Tirapell that Stanford could be a regular top 10 program. I think they could compete with Cornell to be the top elite academic wrestling school in the country with some changes.

 

 

I always thought that Stanford did not do a good enough job of recruiting. With the addition of Brandon Precin to the Stanford staff to complement Alex Tirapelle as another elite coach still able to wrestle in the room, I'm sure they'll make more progress on the recruiting front. Already, they got a top recruit in the talented PA HS'er Connor Schram, no doubt in part due to the improved staff.

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I was going to mention this the other day but I wasn't sure it would do any good so I refrained. Since this is a good segway I will bring it up.

 

 

With California having so many high school wrestlers, only having one state championship, and so few Division-I opportunities (let's be honest, Stanford is not an option for most just as you wouldn't count Army as a true option for New Yorkers), why isn't the CACC system stronger?

 

Every state, especially the ones with more depth and fewer state champions crowned, have wrestlers who become solid college wrestlers at the level in spite of not having the best results at the high school states.

 

It is my understanding that the CACC offer scholarships, though even if they didn't I would expect the opportunity to compete in state at a low cost transfer school would appeal to many talented kids that were overlooked coming out of high school. But, for the most part, the talent doesn't seem to be there, at least based on transfers to Division-I schools. Cal St Bakersfield and Cal Poly should be picking up the best CACC kids regularly and, if comparable to the NJCAA, they should be ready to enter a lineup.

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Have always wondered why California doesn't seem to rally around the programs they have, even as they watch the number diminish. It seems as though Cali has as many Fresno, Fullerton, Davis, Penn State, Arizona State, or whatever fans as they do Cal Poly or CSU-Bakersfield.

 

I really have to put all the blame on the high school wrestling scene and those involved. If they are not working to raise money for the few remaining programs to have endowments and to get people in the stands, they are only interested in themselves and not providing future opportunities for their high school and youth athletes and their competitors.

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I know some folks won't like this, but CA would get more love in recruiting if there was more than one division. Every year there are wrestlers from CA that dont win the states yet do well at high school nationals. There are even more that dont go to nationals. Since they aren't "state champa" they dont get recruited and there is nowhere in CA for them to walk on. Having 2 or 3 divisions would create more opportunities for kids.

 

I don't think it's a coincidence that the states who seem to underperform at the NCAA level compared to HS are also the only states with 1 division in HS.

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Have always wondered why California doesn't seem to rally around the programs they have, even as they watch the number diminish. It seems as though Cali has as many Fresno, Fullerton, Davis, Penn State, Arizona State, or whatever fans as they do Cal Poly or CSU-Bakersfield.

 

I really have to put all the blame on the high school wrestling scene and those involved. If they are not working to raise money for the few remaining programs to have endowments and to get people in the stands, they are only interested in themselves and not providing future opportunities for their high school and youth athletes and their competitors.

 

 

Washington has ZERO D1 wrestling programs and 1 community college... and last year we had 37 guys in D1 programs out across the country.

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I think that kid of proves my point. There are 2 dudes running who never had a chance to win a state title in HS because of Varner and Burroughs. How many more Jamil Kelly and Stephen Neals (none state champs) might there be, but who dont get actively recruited? I think CA and NJ are fabulous wrestling states that would get more guys recruited if they had more than one division.

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I was on a coaching staff, in CA, that hasn't had a State champ.

 

But we've had 1 wrestler that placed 7th (twice) currently at Columbia, 1 that was 3rd as a JR (but 2nd in Greco @ Fargo) that's at Brown, another that was 3rd twice at IU, 1 that was 4th and 2nd @ CSUB, 1 that was 7th and 5th at Cal Poly, 1 that was 4th and 3rd (Fargo Jr Greco NC) that's also at Columbia and 1, since I left 2 seasons ago, that wasn't even a varsity regular (he was behind 2 seperate State qualifiers, 1 who is a starting lineman at Oregon State and another that's a SR in HS) wrestling D3.

 

My son is a Section placer (not a State placer) and is being actively recruited by D1, 2 and 3 schools - all of which are outside the State. It helps that he's an excellent student, but that's not what we're talking about.

 

With multiple Sections that have more than 100 schools with wrestling (Southern having 400+ schools that sponsor the sport) and the success CA has had at FLO, NHSCA's and Fargo, CA non-State placers can (and do) get plenty of looks.

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California has more HS wrestlers than any other state. Outside of PA, California has arguably had more success at major HS events than any other state. This is not reflected in the number of CA kids wrestling in college. Who are all of these non state champs wrestling at major D1 schools? The facts do not jive with your anecdote.

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MSU has 3 ( Esquival and 2 recent commits, Pagdilao - Centenial and Gasca - Kingsburg).

 

Larson, listed as a ranked wrestler, didn't place at the State meet (but he did win the North Coast Section - a Section that has only had 3 4 time champs, Nikko Triggas, Jason Welch and the 1st one to do it, Jesse Retta).

 

Loder was 6 as a Jr and 5th as a Sr.

 

Corbin Lee, a 2x time State qualifer is at NYU.

 

Daniel Luty, a 2 time 5th place in the NCS is at Campbell.

 

There's a Central Coast Section placer at Penn. Another at Lehigh.

 

Brian Engdahl is currently filling the 184 slot for Oregon.

 

 

Dylan Morris at Stanford.

 

There are a lot at many, many schools.

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I was on a coaching staff, in CA, that hasn't had a State champ.

 

But we've had 1 wrestler that placed 7th (twice) currently at Columbia, 1 that was 3rd as a JR (but 2nd in Greco @ Fargo) that's at Brown, another that was 3rd twice at IU, 1 that was 4th and 2nd @ CSUB, 1 that was 7th and 5th at Cal Poly, 1 that was 4th and 3rd (Fargo Jr Greco NC) that's also at Columbia and 1, since I left 2 seasons ago, that wasn't even a varsity regular (he was behind 2 seperate State qualifiers, 1 who is a starting lineman at Oregon State and another that's a SR in HS) wrestling D3.

 

My son is a Section placer (not a State placer) and is being actively recruited by D1, 2 and 3 schools - all of which are outside the State. It helps that he's an excellent student, but that's not what we're talking about.

 

With multiple Sections that have more than 100 schools with wrestling (Southern having 400+ schools that sponsor the sport) and the success CA has had at FLO, NHSCA's and Fargo, CA non-State placers can (and do) get plenty of looks.

 

That is exactly what I am talking about. Guys that aren't top prospects out of high school (based on high school state placements) often go on to excel on the mat in college. If you look at Pennsylvania or North Carolina high school kids they are over represented based on numbers compared to other states but this is only because they offer so many in state opportunities.

 

California, in my opinion, would have a lot more kids excelling in college if they had more kids going to college to wrestle. There are a lot of state champions from every state that don't transition to D1 wrestling well while the other placers and qualifiers end up developing. Which brings me back to my original question: why does't the state's junior college system fill this void and develop more future D1 wrestlers?

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That is great, but you and I both know that there are a lot of kids in CA who could compete at programs much stronger than NYU and Campbell. Many of the kids who place 2nd to 5th in CA could wrestle at D1 programs. If we had more than one division, they might get more looks. California gets underrecruited.

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That is great, but you and I both know that there are a lot of kids in CA who could compete at programs much stronger than NYU and Campbell. Many of the kids who place 2nd to 5th in CA could wrestle at D1 programs. If we had more than one division, they might get more looks. California gets underrecruited.

OCGrappler - I don't necessarily disagree with you. And despite statements I've seen, I'm sure there are plenty of kids and coaches that would rather say they are (or coached) a State Champ in a multi-division set up than a 1 Division Section champ who didn't place at State.

 

As for competing at NYU, I would rather have my son wrestle there, based upon the after college benefits, than many strong DI programs. Same for the University of Chicago and Johns Hopkins to name a few.

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I agree with you. Your son has an advantage in that he clearly has a parent who knows how it works and is invested in his future success. Not every kid is so fortunate, some kids need the colleges to come looking for them. If we had more state champs and state placers, that might help. I have heard that this is the case in NY since they moved to two divisions.

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Pinnum, part of the JC issue in CA could be that they are wrestling in the late summer and fall instead of the normal fall-winter period.

 

I was wondering about that.

 

But I was more curious what California coaches had to say and was wondering if they encourage or discourage kids going that route. Have to think wrestling is wrestling with kids just wanting to get mat time. They would still be able to meet D1 guys in the opens with the added benefit of seeing them late in the season.

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Cali has enough talent and depth to have at least one good program if you get the right coach. Not sure what Cali tuition is now in relation to other states but it was comparatively dirt cheap compared to PA back in the '80's when I was in the Air Force stationed in Cali. The cost combined with the climate and atmosphere should make for an attractive alternative for a top prospect if the right coach was ambitious enough. Because of this, I don't buy the excuse that the Cali schools are not fully funded etc. Look at what Flynn does wit DII 5.5 scholarship Edinboro. There are also 3 or 4 other DII schools with limited resources and primitive facilities competing with more "success" than fully funded schools.

Get the right motivated coach and the results will follow.

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#1 reason - financial support. You can break it down anyway you want to but without 9.9 scholarships and money to fund at least 3 paid coaches and a system to get a volunteer coach funded, everything else is moot.

 

I don't believe any school in CA has 9.9 scholarships. Most don't fund more than 1 coach. I know Cal Poly has to fund-raise for their head assistant coach.

 

Bring back Fresno State, UCLA, Cal, and USC. Give them a full paid staff and 9.9 scholarships and you'd see California schools consistently in the Top 10, if not higher. Heck, give Stanford 9.9 scholarships and it wouldn't take long before they consistently were a Top 10 team.

 

 

not sure USC ever had a team to begin with.....just club status going back to pre title IX. Probably more realistic to see Stanford get 9.9 scholarships before seeing the other schools you mentioned bringing back wrestling any time soon.

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If CA went to multiple divisions, it sure wouldn't hurt recruiting, but I think the benefits would be far smaller than some people think. Reason being.....lack of in state programs. The relative lack of CA high school wrestlers that excel at the D1 level is directly related to the lack of in state D1 programs. For the most part, the vast majority of top D1 programs are about 1500+ miles away from CA. Simple geography makes recruiting tough. Not only is it harder to get noticed on the West Coast, unless you can afford to go to a lot of national tournaments, but a lot of these kids, even if they got scholarships, the family can't afford for them to live 2000 miles from home. Some kids love going to school on the other side of the country, but for many kids, that type of transition is too much (or too expensive).

 

If CA went to 3 divisions, which would be totally reasonable in a state this size, this would really only have a large impact on D1 success if major state schools in CA started programs. If Cal and UCLA each started programs, that's only two new programs but the impact on CA wrestling at all levels would be ENORMOUSLY impacted. Imagine how much exposure kids in CA would get if they were being recruited by schools like that in state? As others have said, most kids can't get into Stanford, and many don't want to go to Poly or Bakersfield. But large state schools with national name recognition like Cal and UCLA would be game changers. Unfortunately the programs don't exist, despite CA having tens of thousands of high school wrestlers. State schools would be able to build excellent teams, with mostly CA recruits, because there are so many to choose from, and also geography would help in this case. Some East coast recruits might want to go to college in CA, but once again, many families don't want or can't afford to send their kids 2000 miles to school.

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If Cal and UCLA each started programs

If Cal and UCLA brought back their programs...;)

 

Problem with that is, those schools are almost as difficult to get into as Stanford.

 

If some of the more attractive CSU's brought back/started programs it may be more feasible.

 

San Diego State, Northridge, Long Beach and Fresno. Or the Catholic schools such as USD, Santa Clara, Saint Mary's or Loyola (interesting that they are each D1 West Coast Conference basketball schools).

 

CA has some very good coaches. But I feel one of the primary reasons Pennsylvania and the east, along with Ohio/Mich and parts of the Midwest are so succesful is that they have always had a large number of universities and colleges with wrestling that have turned out a large number of educators that have come back as coaches.

 

That does happen in CA, but I don't believe it does with the frequency we see in the other regions (and, namely, because we don't have enough schools with wrestling).

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The problem with college wrestling in California is due has a number of reasons. The biggest problem is the states economy is a train wreck. Any school that receives state funds is not going to have a wrestling program. Title IX is the next thing that kills programs in California. Finally big name coaches and talent don’t want to compete in the Pack 12 if they can coach or wrestle in the Big 10.

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