Some food for thought from The Wrestling Mall...
What Makes a College Wrestlers Career Good?
There is No Definitive Answer
9/21/2007 2:33:00 PM
Winning conference championships, becoming an All-American and national champion can help determine what makes a college wrestler successful. However, is that the only true mark of what makes a wrestler good? A number of factors play into deciding what makes a wrestler good, and what makes one?s career better than another. What formula do you use to determine who had a good career or was a good collegiate wrestler? Read below ? and then decide.
By Stephen Stonebraker ? TWM Freelance Writer
A graduated wrestler who will remain unnamed looked back on his career as a NCAA Division I wrestler, and said, ?I wasn?t any good.?
He feels that because of his lack of credential accomplishments he cannot consider himself a good wrestler. There was always someone better than him at his weight all four years he tried to make varsity, and he never got to compete.
As caring and understanding fans, we often try and sugarcoat issues, to try and avoid hurt feelings. We try and assure a wrestler who fell short of his lofty goals that he was indeed good, but for some reason things just weren?t meant to fall into place. Watching a young man with feelings of un-fulfillment, a subjective question, is left unanswered. If the wrestler truly wasn?t any good, as he told me, then what makes a good wrestler?
A good wrestler on the NCAA Division I scale that is. This story sponsored by:
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To many fans, wrestlers, coaches and critics, a good wrestler is a wrestler that at least qualifies for nationals. That means when looking at the number of wrestlers in Division I wrestling, only 37 percent of the wrestlers in a given year will be considered good by those standards. The percentage comes from looking at the number of teams and multiplying that number times the number of weight classes. You come up with approximately 860 slots for a DI wrestler to compete at. Out of those 860 wrestlers, only approximately 320 wrestlers will qualify for nationals. Does that mean that our remaining 63 percent of wrestlers, who did not qualify for nationals, are not good?
Seems like an awfully high number, if it does mean that.
Some wrestlers, coaches, fans, and critics will even go as far to say that a good wrestler is a wrestler that makes All-American status. There are only 80 wrestlers every year that accomplish that honor. Out of all the wrestlers in DI, that gives us less than 10 percent. It?s hard to believe that anyone would be that harsh of a judge and truly consider the other 90 percent who do not make All American, as not being good.
Yet, what if they did? What if they do? What other factors must be put into play? Is a four-time national qualifier who didn?t make All-American better than a one-time national qualifier who made All-American? Tyrone Byrd, a former wrestler for the University of Illinois, qualified for nationals all four years, but came up short of placing each time. Tony Black, a Wisconsin Badgers wrestler, only qualified once, but was able to capture a fifth place finish at the national tournament and earn All-American status. Who?s the better wrestler out of those two? Or can you truly determine that? Is level of competition a factor? Byrd wrestled at 197. Black at 125. In the years that both wrestled, which weight class was harder to be successful at? Or are those questions, once again too subjective to give a straight answer?
How?s this for a question? Is a national champion better than a four-time All-American?
Ben Cherrington, a Boise State standout, only placed at nationals once, but that place happened to be first. Dustin Manotti, one of Cornell?s all-time greats, finished eighth, fourth, sixth and third respectively. Who?s the better wrestler out of those two?
Jake Percival of Ohio (pictured) was the NCAA runner-up at 157 in 2004. He lost to Matt Gentry of Stanford in the finals. The NCAA title was the only time Gentry finished in the top eight in his career. The next year Percival finished third at 157, while Gentry failed to place. Who had the better career? Tough call.
Are we done proposing questions and adding in other factors? Unfortunately, no we?re not. Anyone that has ever watched wrestling knows that injuries ought to come in somewhere. If injuries weren?t a part of the game, then 2003 Witt Durden of Oklahoma and 2007 Evan Sola of North Carolina probably would have ended up on the ?good? wrestler list at the end of those particular seasons. Maybe they were just off their game and not wrestling up to their full potential, but many will agree that unfortunate injuries kept them from performing at their top level. Kept them from being considered ?good.?
When looking back on the career of a wrestler, one often forgets to look at the broad scale of things and really see just how tough it is to accomplish certain feats. The fact of the matter is, only a small portion of the total population of wrestlers will qualify for nationals, and an even smaller portion will make All-American. Perhaps the most important element to look at is luck. A pseudoscience that can often come in the forms of both good and bad. Take Franklin Gomez, a sophomore at Michigan State this year. Last year he was without a doubt one of the best 125 pounders in the nation. He had a bad couple of days at the Big 10 tournament, and failed to qualify for nationals. He had to sit at home and watch, while many wrestlers he beat during the season got to wrestle at nationals. Should that bad two days keep Gomez from being looked at as a good wrestler?
Don?t kid yourself, Gomez wasn?t the only ?should have? qualified, that didn?t. NCAA Division I wrestling is so tough, that many believe if you were to hold the exact same NCAA tournament a week later you?d be looking at many different wrestlers among the 80 who earn All-American status each year. This really isn?t too hard of a concept to buy. During the tournament, so many matches come down to one point or overtime. The old clich? term, ?The match could have gone either way?, truly applies to a large sum of matches that take place. Had they went the other way, John Doe, who lost in the quarterfinals by a point and then in the placement match in overtime, very well could have wound up in 7th place. The difference between winning and losing, even matches that close, determines the overall status of a wrestler? To some, I?m sure it does.
It is very probable that someone, maybe you, is reading this, and saying to yourself, ?Anyone who wrestles Division I has to be good, or he wouldn?t be wrestling Division I.? That?s true, every wrestler in Division I had to do something stellar in his career, or he probably wouldn?t be there. It brings up interesting scenarios though. There are wrestlers, like Nathan Galloway, who wrestled for both Penn State and Rider who were phenomenal high school standouts, but unfortunately never got things going in college. Then there are other wrestlers, like Phil Davis, who only placed at the high school state tournament once, who are going for their fourth All-American honor this upcoming season. It makes wrestling a rather weird sport, when looking at it from that perspective. It seems that every year someone who was a four time state champion is a backup, while a guy that barely made his high school team is wrestling for the conference championship. A whole new set of questions, without anything more than good hypothesis for answers, are brought up. For example, how important is good coaching? Almost everyone is familiar with the comments, ?if he would have wrestled for this coach instead, he would have been better.? Does that mean that our ?not good? wrestlers were ?good? but just didn?t wrestle for the right coach? For the right team?
What makes a good wrestler obviously can not be answered by one person. It probably can not be truly answered by any group of people either. There are too many questions, and too many contradicting answers to ever come to an ultimate truth. Everyone has their own perspective and opinion of exactly what the definition of a good wrestler is, and that?s as good as it gets. In the opinion?s of some, including this writer, anyone who has the courage to walk into a wrestling room day in and day out and engage in the grueling practices for four to five years may or may not be a ?good wrestler?, but he is without a doubt a winner, and should be looked at as one.
The dedication, discipline and work ethic of so many wrestlers, may not lead them to the success they dream of on the mat, but it will take them far in life one way or the other. To quote another wrestler who will remain unnamed, I?ll finish off this article by saying one of the most important lines I think I?ve ever heard in our sport. ?I wasn?t a wrestler because I was successful. I am successful, because I was a wrestler.? To end with a proper clich?, ?It is better to have wrestled and lost, than to have never wrestled at all.?
So what is a good wrestler? I?ll leave that up to you to decide.
Stephen Stonebraker is a 22-year-old college student from Sigourney, Iowa. He has been a college wrestling fan ever since his father, Randy, took him to his first dual meet at the University of Iowa, about 15 years ago. Every year, he and his father go to the NCAA Division I championships. He is not partial or biased to any team but just enjoys wrestling and follows the careers of many of the athletes. Stonebraker accepts feedback on his articles at firstname.lastname@example.org