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dclark145

Walking on in Division 1

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Hello, everyone. I am a new poster, but I have been a longtime avid reader!

 

As a soon-to-be HS graduate, I have had to evaluate myself and what choices i will be making in life in regards to my college experience. Coming from Philadelphia, most of us Public School kids do not start wrestling until Freshman year or later. This relatively late arrival to the sport, however, does not equate to a lack in dedication.

 

Exemplified by certain actions, there are thousands of wrestlers across this nation who want nothing more than to wrestle D1. Obviously, we are not all that blue chip recruit with Fargo stop signs and 4+ state medals. So, what does everyone think about that huge population who would love to wrestle D1, but are automatically marked as incompetent due to their lack of accolades and/or accomplishments?

 

A few questions:

 

What is the most important characteristic for a wrestler to have in D1?

 

What differentiates someone "ready" for D1 and someone who is not?

 

Is it worth walking on to an upper echelon team (Penn State, Iowa, Okie State, Ohio State, Cornell, Minn.. etc) if it is very much possible that a blue chip wrestler might block you off from ever being the #1 man at your weight?

 

Academics vs. Athletics: if you go to a school based on what they have to offer academically, is it fair that you have the option to continue wrestling?

 

These questions arose in my head because I am going to PSU on an academic full ride, and was rather crushed at the very, very likely thought that Coach Sanderson will not let a run-of-the-mill district runner up touch foot inside his wrestling room. Of course, there is the NLWC, but without the pressure and structure of the strenuous wrestling season with a goal in mind.. the lifestyle isn't remotely the same. I know I'm not the only kid in the USA with big dreams coming from a small stash of medals and brackets. I feel as if college wrestling of any caliber, if one is willing to give the dedication and convey the character necessary, should be of the wrestler's volition - not the podium's.

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Hey bud i go to PSU currently and two of my roomates walked on the team. If you have what it takes to work your ass off and fight for it as hard as you can, I would say go in as so you get to campus in the fall and try and talk with one of coaches. I also suggest being in the best shape you have ever been in, by the time you get there. Trust me youre gonna need the conditioning. Best of luck

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DClark,

 

As a former D1 walk on (who went to HS in the Philadelphia Area) I can tell you that if you have the work ethic and desire to learn you can wrestle anywhere you want. If you get a chance to wrestle at an upper echelon school that also has good academics, go. You may not ever start (look at Vollrath and the other examples at PSU) but you will get loads of experience and the chance to be apart of championship caliber teams. You will also get to wrestle in a plethora of open tournaments throughout the year. That said, there is nothing wrong with walking onto a smaller wrestling school and maybe getting a chance to start. There are a ton of smaller D1 schools that I'm sure would love to have a raw PA wrestler on their squad.

 

 

P.S. I know a ton of the kids on PSU's roster are walk ons. 9.9 scholarships only go so far...

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First and most importantly: congratulations on your acceptance and full academic scholarship. No small accomplishment.

 

Why not go straight to the source? Call Cael, tell him you've been accepted with a full academic ride, are very interested in walking on, and would like to visit a practice and meet the coaches. I doubt he'll decline your visit request. Probably the worst he'll say is that you'll have to try out for the team.

 

In case you haven't followed PSU wrestling closely, just check out Bryan Pearsall's career progression: went 3-20 as a freshman, qualified for nationals last year. Adam Lynch never reached states but started for Cael. Best man starts. I'd also check the credentials of this year's recruiting class -- not every member qualified for states.

 

In any case, I'd go to PSU. You're setting yourself up for life. World-class education, #1 career recruiting school (according to the Wall Street Journal). The largest alumni association in the world, and Penn Staters look out for each other. Plus saving at least $16k per year as long as you maintain that scholarship. Graduate debt-free with strong career prospects -- 20 years from now, that will be the best decision you could've made.

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DClark, my story is similar to yours in that I only started to wrestle in high school, and never qualified for the state tournament, never had any credentials to speak of. I walked on at Wisconsin. It didn't happen right away, I was cut in freshman/sophomore years but made it my last two years.

 

One thing I would recommend is you call the coaching staff now and find out when try outs are, what you need to do between now and then etc. It will show them you're serious and they will be expecting you to tryout. Don't wait until you get to campus.

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Do you want to be a walk on or do you want to wrestle? Here is a 5 step approach to figure out what you really want to do.

 

1) Wash your mind of the thoughts and brain washing that Division 1 is the “be all, end all” for wrestling. That’s hogwash. Get your mind straight and think about why you are going to college in the first place and that is education. D1 may very well be the final part of the process, but don't let it be the first.

 

2) Understand what a walk on really is – in 99% of the cases at D1 level it is a work out partner for the starters (and sometimes not even that). Oh, there are exceptions to the rules. For example Tom Ryan head coach of OSU, but please understand that those are far and few between. And the walk ons at Penn State (not sure who the poster’s room mates are) but if they are kids like Conway and Pearsal who I know were walk ons, they are multi time Pa AAA state medalists and Conway was even a State Champ his senior year. So walk ons they may be, but high credential walk ons who have now worked their way into scholarships. Most other walk ons NEVER get to that point.

 

3) Competition at D2 and D3 is NOT easy. Oh, you may not see it on ESPN, but there are MANY kids that are State Champs (i.e. Dakotas Deslauria – Pa AA state champ) going to D2 schools. (he is going to be at Mercyhurst I believe) And there are many state medalists who go D2 and never get to Regionals or their National Championships either because the competion level is much better than they imagined. And many D1 wrestlers end up falling back to D2 or 3 because of lifestyle. (look at Shippensburg line up and you have at least 3 previous D1 wrestlers in it) You will get great competion at these levels. Don’t let any D1 coach and/or fan, parent, wrestler tell you otherwise.

 

4) General Rule of thumb - Here’s the first reality of life as a high school / college wrestler- just because you win a high school state title doesn’t mean you are going to get one dime of scholarship money. Cold, hard, facts – High school wrestlers are generally placed into one of four categories by college coaches:

 

Cat -1 ---- Top tier kid --- nationally ranked, multiple State Championships or National Preps - places high at national level events (Beast / Ironman/ Powerade/Fargo) top shelf (think Cody Gardner, Frishkorns, Dozier, Ed Ruth, Altons, Brooks Black etc). (top 1%) Cat-1 kids are recruited by nearly every college.

 

Cat- 2 ---- Second tier kid – great wrestler by most State’s standards – state champ or high state placer, occasionally places at top national tournaments, maybe HM in national rankings (top 2%). Cat-2s are recruited by a local D-1 colleges if you can get the coaches attention (more on that later).

 

Cat- 3 ---- Very good wrestlers, dedicated, all-stater / state qualifier, (top 3%). Cat-3s are not generally recruited at the D-1 level, but are welcome to walk-on. They are a much better fit for D2 or 3 or even NAIA or NWCA.

 

Cat- 4 ---- Good kid, tries hard, but has limited success in high school, state qualifier / regional tournament placer (top 5%). Cat-4s have a 90% chance of NOT making it through even one college season (at a D-1 level). Good fit for D2 as walk on or D3 etc.

 

Cat-1s will generally always go to NCAA D-1 schools (if they clear the academic hurdles),Cat-2s can make it at D-1 schools, but could be equally suited for D-2 or D-3 schools. Cat 3s are best suited at D-2 or D-3 level schoolsCat 4s are best suited for D-3 schools.

 

5) Finally – If you take the approach that focuses on education, getting your degree in a major you are interested in or want to get into and let wrestling decisions fall into a secondary choice category you will do fine! Many great small schools out there and many great large schools out there, determine which is a better fit for your educational decision, then go wrestle with all your heart.

 

Good Luck to you no matter what your choice, but be prepared to make that choice with logic and knowledge and not with emotion and closed mindedness.

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walked on DI- wasn't a starter but got the opportunity conference week to cut down one weight due to an injury- cut 14 pounds mon. to fri. - drew the first seed- wrestled back- had a blast! wouldn't trade the experience for anything.

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dclark145,

 

Congrats on receiving a full-ride to Penn State for your academic excellence. You're obviously a smart guy, so why would you be "crushed at the very, very likely thought that Coach Sanderson will not let a run-of-the-mill district runner up touch foot inside his wrestling room." You chose to attend a school that currently has the best collegiate wrestling program in the entire country. No offense, but what makes you think you're worthy of the attention from Cael Sanderson? Don't you realize that time spent working with you is less time spent working with anyone else?

 

I'm sorry, but if your highest finish in high school was second at districts, you don't deserve to be in that room ... just like a blue chip high school wrestler carrying a GPA of 2.0 doesn't deserve to wrestle for Harvard. Your lack of skills will cause more harm to the opponents that practice with you than good.

 

I'm sorry if I'm not telling you what you want to hear, but it's the truth.

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Craig Brester was basically a walkon at Nebraska. He never lost a match his junior or senior year to anyone not named Varner, and beat him once to be a Big 12 champ. I would say he thought it was worth it.

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I know Coach Koll says that he doesn't like walk ons "because they have a tendency to walk off."

 

However, if you really do have the determination and drive to give it your all for four years of butt whoopings and likely never having the chance to be a starter, go for it. I'm sure you won't be the worst wrestler who's ever worn a penn state singlet.

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I was considering walking on to a Division 1 team before I graduated HS like yourself but ultimately after looking at my options I went the Division 3 route. And even though I didn't end up a D3 NC or AA what I did get was a GREAT college wrestling experience, a bachelors degree, a very good paying job I enjoy with pension/security, but most importantly I got life-long friendships with my teammates & coaches.

 

Just another perspective :)

 

Though if you can be a part of what PSU is doing out there while being on an academic scholarship I don't see how you can pass that up. Even if you do have to "walk off" as others have said, so what? At least you were a D1 wrestler albeit for a short period of time and gave it everything you had to fulfill your dreams.

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dtowner, thank you for saying what I've been afraid to on this forum for so long. D-I is the pinnacle from a depth perspective, but anyone who thinks that there aren't many individuals in D-II, D-III, NAIA, and JUCO, that aren't every bit as talented and hard working as their counterparts in D-I, are either ignorant or lying outright. I thought it was very interesting that the mainstream wrestling folks I keep up with, as well as many posters on these boards, were quick to suddenly bring up the non-D-I programs in the wake of the IOC's decision to drop wrestling from the sure-thing Olympic program. It was way past due. As a coach, it's tough to send a successful high school kid off to a non-D-I school to compete when he feels like he missed some bar because he did not get D-I attention. If there was ever a time for our domestic wrestling community to educate itself on this point, it is now!

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Some really good points. I love this.

 

To wrestling17601 - My main goal is to fulfill my academic interests, with wrestling being right behind it. PSU's college of education is amazing, so regardless of wrestling.. it is still my best choice.

 

To clear any confusion, i did not pick PSU because of their wrestling team. It just so happens that penn state is my school of choice. The disappointment comes in that my best choice of matriculation is a likely end of the road for wrestling seasons for me.

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If you go to PSU, make the team, and stick it out, then you'll probably get a national championship ring. Maybe more than one. How cool would that be?

 

A few of the PA kids on the roster never qualified for states. In that sense, you wouldn't be blazing any new trails. It won't be easy, but also not impossible. BTW, an optimist would consider your lack of experience to be more opportunity for growth.

 

One thing you might consider doing between now and then: see if you can work out with the local colleges (Penn, Drexel, etc.). A lot of college wrestlers have summer jobs, so the teams may need some workout partners. Would be a good way to adjust to college competition.

 

No matter which path you choose, best of luck to you.

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First of all I wish you luck and hope it happens but your chances are probably pretty slim right now (with only 4 years experience/district 2nd)...75% of D1 schools would probably love you and welcome your enthusiasm with open arms but were talking the NCAA Champs in the Best Wrestling State in America...If you go in the room (and you will get a chance) and just get beat up by everyone you probably have little chance..If you can hang a little bit right now and help guys with training then you do have a shot...One thing that can really help you down the road is by having a Great GPA and the good thing is they have the wrestling club so you can train until your ready to make roster.

Good Luck to You, sounds like your going to be successful at whatever you do!

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DClark, I have some points regarding walking on. They are anecdote heavy,but I think you may find my experiences beneficial to your knowledge. First off if you are a good athlete but never had a good coach, then you might surprise yourself after walking on. I barely placed at state in Oklahoma in HS (4th), but I walked on at Oklahoma State and in ranking matches I beat 2 guys that were multiple champs in HS (and those guys would've murdered me in HS). The reason for my rapid improvement.....the excellent coaching at OSU. To be frank my JR High and HS coaches were terrible and what success I enjoyed was due to brute strength and athleticism. After just a month practicing at OSU I was thriving in the wrestling room and learning stuff I never knew in HS. If you have strength and quickness, you might have a lot of untapped potential you never dreamed of. The only thing missing before was good coaching. Also, maybe I was inspired being in the same room with so many guys who were wrestling heroes of mine. When Bruce Baumgartner comes over and offers advice....damn.

 

If you walk on you'll need to talk to one of the coaches. At OSU coach Chesbro listened patiently while I made my plea. He had never heard of me and didn't see me at the state tournament the year before (I didn't make it to the finals). He was willing to give me a chance, but he wanted to make sure I knew enough not to get hurt...so he put me against a Freshman named John Smith. I was 190 pounds and Smith was about 126. Needless to say I whipped the tar out of John, so the coach put me against Kenny Monday. Kenny took me down very quickly although much lighter than me, but the coach was satisfied that I knew enough not to get hurt. Don't be surprised if they make you wrestle a couple guys to see what you can do. Just do the best you can and show no mercy if they are smaller than you. They probably won't need your mercy anyway, hehe.

 

Remember you have NOTHING to lose in that wrestling room if you are a walkon. In HS I was tentative against guys that I thought were better wrestlers than me, and it cost me some matches I probably should have won. At OSU I just assumed they were all better than me anyway so to hell with it...I was going all balls, super aggressive all the time, to hell with the consequences. My first day practicing I did a French throw (which a visiting HC had taught me in HS the year before) on a kid that had won 3 state championships (and who I was in awe of as a HS kid) and pinned his ass in about 30 seconds. He got pretty pissed, but the point was made in my mind...I could compete with those guys.

 

Lastly, don't let stupid pride get in your way. I worked hard at OSU, made it up to 2nd team for the 2nd best wrestling team in the country, but I threw all that away because of stupid pride. After all that work the first home dual I looked at OSU's roster and didn't see my name listed. I felt I was a member of the team and had proven myself, and quit in a stupid fit of despondency. I will always regret that decision...I should have kept laboring anonymously, eventually I'd have been a starter and maybe been an All American. But I'll never know now what would have happened.

 

Lastly and most importantly, as has been noted previously in this thread....remember your goal is to get an education. Wrestling is fun and the greatest sport, but you are ultimately going to make a living off what you learn in school. Good luck, and give it you best shot if you walk on.

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another anecdotal response:

My brother and I had practically the same high school careers - both state place winners with solid credentials. He chose to go to a top -tier Division 1 school. He ended up behind a 3x National champ and wrestled about 3 matches in his career. Hey he was undefeated, though! He ended up only wrestling when the coach called him to fill in and he didn't even practice with the team.

 

I took his experience to heart and went to a division 2 school. Started all 3 years and had a ball doing it.

 

Take that for what it's worth.

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First, again congrats on your scholarship!

 

Second, walking on takes GUTS kid! You’re going to get the worst beatings you have ever thought humanly possible. There will be guys who want you OFF the team! Seriously because you are taking workout gear from someone who wants to be where you are.....You would not believe how many guys want to get the work out gear and be called part of the team. SO in short be prepared to take it and keep on coming. If you can handle it you will be respected by ALL (not just the team but students across campus). As a starter and national champ DII I never quite understood why some guys endured the punishment but I CERTAINLY respected them ALL for sticking it out. Nothing made me more upset than watching guys walk on and make it through preseason just to collect gear and then disappear. As a matter of fact we often made them return the gear if they "walked off". So do some serious heart to heart type thinking and look deep within yourself to make sure this is something you WANT to do! It’s not easy and everyone who has responded knows that the season is LONG and getting your brains beat in while trying to use them to get an education is tough very tough.

 

Last, being part of a wrestling team regardless of your starting position or rank is the BEST feeling/reward you can possibly have in your life. Not just during your college years but LIFE! The best relationships and experiences in my entire life came during my college wrestling days and quite a few of them were had with "non-starters" involved with our team! I would say if after some serious thought you decide to do it then by all means do it! ALL TEAMS AT ANY LEVEL are not successful without guys like yourself. Without walk-ons NONE of these teams would be successful or even competitive. 9.9 scholarships will not fill a team nor does it make a great squad. It’s the walk-ons and partials that are making these blue chippers better. As a 4X HS state champion I was made a TON tougher/better by kids who NEVER won a state championship I also learned a TON off the mat from these types of guys, guys who had passion for the sport. Like I said, a really good college team has depth and typically that comes from TOUGH kids who walk on or get very little to compensate for the type of dedication and grind it takes! You will be amazed at the level you improve and the rate you will improve that is FOR SURE! Iron sharpens Iron and that room is FULL of IRON! So best of luck and keep us posted on your decision and progress...

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I say walk on at Penn State. Give Cael a call, tell him you are willing to work your ass off, and you will most likely get a shot for at least a couple weeks during pre season to see what you can do.

 

Best case, you make the team and have a shot at a team National Championship regardless of how well you do individually. Worst case...you get cut and still pay less for your education than everyone else on that team not named Ruth or Taylor.

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I walked on to a Big Ten school in the early 1980's. During early season conditioning, I showed well and had no problem with the various runs and exercises we were doing. I felt good about the experience and began to get comfortable. Then the live wrestling began. For a few days, it wasn't too bad. Then, on Day Three of week six I ended up in a group of four with two starters and the guy who wanted either one of their spots. For about an hour I got the daylights beat out of me. I tried as hard as I could--and I wasn't close to scoring. Exhausted and discouraged, I showered after practice and thought about how much hard work it was going to take for me just to become competitive with the better kids in the room. I asked myself whether or not I was mentally prepared for four years of training in a way that I never had. Up until that beating, I liked the idea of walking on and wrestling. But now I suddenly understood how far behind I was and the incredible effort it was going to take for four full years. At this point it became obvious to me that I wasn't mentally prepared for the work. Add in that I had a girlfriend with no roommate, a bunch of new buddies, and lots of beer in the dorm rooms...I knew I was kidding myself. I went to the assistant coach the next day (he'd taken enough interest in me to make me feel I mattered a bit) and thanked him but admitted I wasn't up to the task.

 

Several years later I went into coaching. Figures, right?

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