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Identifying Talent

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There has been a lot of talk about athletes getting better coaching and being ready to step into the college ranks and compete right away but I was wondering about the development of national tournaments and ranking services impact on recruiting.

 

My question: With all of the traveling teams and individuals do along with all of the media coverage, is it easier for the top programs to hear about talented wrestlers than it was 20 or 30 years ago? It seems like there use to be a lot more stories of a small school landing a under the radar recruit that the big schools didn't know was even out there. But now it is so easy for kids to contact programs and for programs to see kids compete that there are no longer kids under the radar.

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You're right.

 

The art of recruiting for is no longer about finding the best "hidden" talent that the coaches at the top 3 or 4 programs may have missed. Everyone is on everyone's radar now. Now it's about accurately projecting upside.

 

There are very few HS seniors who can make an impact right away, which means that the vast majority of seniors must improve to have an impact on a program. The best recruiters of today are those who can pick the guys who will improve the most under their programs, or said another way, the guys with the highest ceilings who are the best cultural and stylistic fits.

 

Two guys who come to mind immediately are Rob Koll and Tim Flynn.

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Being too lazy to look things up, my impression is most of the Cornell guys are good right out of the gate.

 

I would say this is true for all of the top teams.

 

I agree that it is much easier to identify talent now that it was even 15 years ago. But one key to a successful program is developing that talent and keeping that drive within the heart of the recruit/wrestler throughout his college career.

 

Another often overlooked aspect is recruiting the right kids for the program. Just because the top recruit can get into any school he chooses, doesn't mean he will be the right fit at every school. Wrestlingnerd hit on this, but it deserves discussion. I think Koll has become excellent at not only identifying talent, but also identifying which talent will develop and thrive at Cornell. And I'm not just speaking academics, I'm talking about the location, the weather, the size of the college town, the coaches, the teammates, the majors offered - everything.

 

I don't remember all the reasons Mocco switched programs, but he is an example of the type of wrestler I'm talking about - Iowa just wasnt the right fit for him. In a non-wrestling example, I read a few years ago that Larry Bird was recruited to Indiana U., but dropped out after only a few months because IU was too big and too far away from home. After that, he didnt want to go to college at all, but eventually the Indiana State coach convinced him that their program would be the right fit for him - and the rest is history.

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A lot of the coaches are looking for the guys who didn't specialize in high school, may be late bloomers physically or physically very gifted but haven't been in the right environment, and their best things are coming in the future. Gabe Dean, Jordan Burroughs, and Kyle Dake are those type of guys. There aren't a lot of "guaranteed" products coming out (Metcalf comes to mind) so it's about the personality and the potential of the wrestlers.

 

I think that's why Gable had so much success, he had his great recruiting classes but he sure found a lot of diamonds in the rough who believed in his system and his style and lived the sport. Rob Koll is doing this now pretty well

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Being too lazy to look things up, my impression is most of the Cornell guys are good right out of the gate.

 

I looked it up before I posted to confirm my opinion. Cornell keeps a page of AAs to make it easy: http://www.cornellbigred.com/sports/201 ... 04355.aspx

 

At this point, Koll is indeed getting a lot of "resume submissions", if you will, though the entry bar is quite high. But that was not always the case, and the fact that that may be the case today is a direct result of what he did when that was not true.

 

On average, Koll has historically gotten better talent than, say, Flynn, for whom I have similar respect, but he also has done more with it. There are exceptions, as with any coach, like Villalonga and Peppelman. But look at what he's done with AAs such as:

 

Dustin Manotti - never a state champ

Matt Greenberg - never a state champ, started wrestling as a sophomore in HS

Clint Wattenberg - never a state champ

Josh Arnone - never a state champ

Steve Bosak - never a state champ

 

About a third of Koll's AAs since I've been following the program closely circa 2000 or so were never state champs. Name one other coach who has done this. I can't think of one.

 

Of the rest, there were a few "big" recruits, but the rest of the AAs were not as highly rated in HS when compared to the average AA from the other top wrestling schools.

 

I started following Cornell more closely when Travis Lee hit the scene, because I was impressed that someone from Hawaii who was fairly unknown was making noise in D1. Travis himself, while a state champ, was not considered a top recruit until his double Fargo win. I read in an interview that two coaches showed real interest: Koll and Bobby Douglas at Iowa State.

 

Then you have guys like Nahshon Garrett, who were on coaches' radars, but much like Flynn's top guys (Port, Schopp, Avery) were not nearly as heavily recruited as the tier 1 blue chippers. And look at their output and improvement.

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Every so often I'll dig up some HS results from years back and it's amazing how many kids that were "can't miss" that never did anything of note once they got to a D1 program. The list is long...

 

I think it's very difficult to find a 3 tool wrestler that dominated in HS and then brought it to D1. Usually they really, really struggle on bottom. Or, their great shooting ability is neutralized in college. As for riding, I'm with a lot of folks on here. If you're not trying to turn and pin a guy, then you aren't going to be allowed to just lay on top of the guy.

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Brian Smith. Michael Chandler, Tyler McCormick, Mark Ellis, Drake Houdashelt, Nick Marable, etc. Untapped talent usually takes a few years to manifest itself with good coaching and the right atmosphere. I'm not saying he's the best there is, but Brian Smith is a guy that any wrestler would be lucky to have coach their own son.

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After John Smith had taken numerous top notch teams to the NCAAs only to see them underperform, when he finally got his Cowboy team over the hump he was ask what was different about this team.

 

His answer paraphrased because I can not remember the exact text was, he used to recruit the best wrestlers he could and tried to teach them toughness, but now he recruited the toughest sonofaguns he could and then taught them how to wrestle.

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I used to argue with Stan Abel. I said quit recruiting slick guys. Recruit tough guys and make them slick. You can make a tough guy skick, but you can't makeba slick guy tough. He listened some Metzger, Frizzell, Schultz brothers, Dan Chaid Sr, and John Kading were guys he recuited after my time at OU.

 

One of the best lines was Greg Strobel when asked who'd he rather wrestle in the NCAA finals Al Nacin or Ben Ohai. Greg said Nacin he's slicker, but you can make him quit. Ohai won't quit, if you had a stick he'd try to take it away from you. He wrestled Ohai in the finals and won in OT.

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