Wrestling Recruiting

There don’t seem to be a large number of posts about wrestling recruiting. I just wanted to throw my name out there if anyone is going through this and has any questions. I received a ton of help, both online here and from other places, and I am happy to pay the universe back and help the next group of kids coming up.

S19 went through this a couple of years ago, and ended up having a pretty broad cross-section of schools he talked to due to his athletic development during HS. So we have talked to Williams, Iowa and everything in-between. If anyone wants help in this area, let me know, either posting here or by PM.

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@dadof4kids: Was your son recruited both by Iowa & Williams College ?

I would love to read a run-down of the schools which recruited your son & his final options.

Interesting as I did not realize that an Iowa level talent would be pursued by a DIII school.

He got A LOT better between his soph season and his junior season. So his recruiting journey started with him contacting high academic programs, and by the end it was high profile D1 programs contacting him out of the blue. Not at all what I expected when he started the process.

After his soph year, he sent emails to the Ivies that have wrestling, Williams, and a few other high academic schools. At the time, it seemed like a reasonable goal to be a 4 year starter at a place like Williams, or a practice room guy at Harvard or Brown or Columbia, with maybe a chance to crack the lineup on a mediocre team as a junior or senior. We did unofficials between soph and junior year at Harvard, Williams, Brown and Princeton. I will say his coaches (both club and HS coaches had extensive college coaching experiece) thought he was aiming too low athletically, but based on his successes to that point he wasn’t. They could see the potential earlier than I did.

He kind of caught fire that summer, and the recruiting situation changed dramatically. Low placer at World Team Trials in one style in May, then high placer both styles at the big National Tournament in Fargo in July. After Fargo, the Williams coach pretty much stopped calling him, probably because he knew that it wasn’t very realistic to expect him to go D3 at that point.

Then in preseason his junior year he started knocking off D1 recruits, and lost in overtime to the eventual champ at Super 32. Took a Penn State recruit to the wire and lost on questionable call. That match in particular ended up getting quite a bit of national level attention and the next day Iowa called. I think part of why that got attention was that there were 4 Fargo champs in his bracket, so Flo and a few others nationally had their eye on the bracket. He was supposed to be an afterthought, but caught a couple high D1 recruits off guard.

He got as high as the low 30’s on Flowrestling’s list of top 100 recruits nationally. Again, never did I dream he would get that good. But you are correct that Williams and Iowa are not competing for recruits. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is the only kid in the last 10 years to have serious conversations with both coaches. Williams wanted him before he was good enough for Iowa. By the time Iowa called, he hadn’t talked to the Williams coach for months.

Wrestling works a bit different that basketball or football, the coaches don’t really like guys to collect offers, at least not early on. So he ended up with several schools his junior season telling him something along the lines of “if you are interested, let us know and we will give an offer” without actually giving the offer.

In the end, he had about 1/2 of the top 10, and also about 1/2 of the top 20 talking to him fairly seriously, and had firm scholarship offers from 3 top 10 schools, plus a few of the high academic schools who were telling him they wanted him to either come to campus or have the coach fly to him for an in-home visit and they wanted to give him an offer face to face. He could have gotten more I’m sure if he waited, but he got the one he wanted during his junior season. That spring he shook hands and it was over. In wrestling it seems like post Fargo (mid July) as a rising senior is when things really heat up. He was already out of it by that point.

It was a nerve wracking experience. It seemed for a while like every week or 2 someone new would call him that seemed like an impossible stretch a month before. Also, I will say that it is very easy when you get calls from places like Iowa and NC State to forget that your ultimate goal was to use this as a hook to get into a good school, not to go to the best wrestling school who would take you.

I’m pretty free giving more details in PM’s if anyone is interested, but since the wrestling community is so small if I name specific schools that kind of outs him. I don’t really care that much, but he would and I have probably posted some opinions about coaches and programs that I would rather not have tied to him. Nothing that bad, but less guarded than I would be if I was signing my name.

A couple general points not specific to him:

The coaches all know each other, and they all talk. He had been telling everyone that he wasn’t making any decisions until after Fargo (July). They always said something along the lines of wanting to be part of the conversation then, but not pushing him. He got his first offer in January. A week later he had 3 firm offers, and 2 “if you want an offer I will give you an offer” conversations. No way do I believe that was truly out of the blue. It got put out on the grapevine that he was accelerating the process, and the coaches who were most interested wanted to get their hat in the ring. One coach I told when I saw him at an event that week. The others all found out on their own. If you look at who is on staff at different places and then look at who went to college together or was at the OTC together or coached together or even just competed against each other, it isn’t 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon. Pretty much the lowest most out of touch D3 coach is only 1 or 2 steps removed from Cael Sanderson.

He kind of skipped D2 recruiting. But I know a couple D2 coaches very well. They do recruit guys they know they will not get. They are playing the long game. It is very common for some of the top talent in D2 to start out in D1. Then for whatever reason, they transfer down to D2. Maybe they don’t quite develop at that level, or someone new gets recruited they can’t beat. The D2 coaches set the stage when they are in HS, and then tell them if they ever change their mind they still will have a home.

At a school like Williams, that’s probably pretty difficult to get a transfer, unless it is after freshman year. But at a less rigorous academic D3 school, and probably almost all D2’s, they can take transfers whenever no problem. I remember a couple years ago watching a kid blow up the competition at the D2 tournament. He was at Okie State for 4 1/2 years, then used his last semester of elgibility in D2, probably as a grad student but that part I’m not sure about. A wrestler at a place like Okie State who is just a backup is still pretty dang good.

Decades ago, I had collegiate wrestling experience. Your son was right in selecting a DI wrestling program. A DI wrestling talent should never join a DIII program if that wrestler wants to continue to develop competitively in wrestling.

The DIII coach limited me to practing with just the DIII national champion (a member of our team) at my weight class because I might / would hurt physically the other wrestlers on this very successful DIII team (which had two DIII national champions plus other outstanding wrestlers). We had 5 wrestlers at my weight class–all of whom also played on our successful DIII football team. I just walked away. I should have transferred.

My firm belief is that DI athletic talent should never join a DIII program in any sport. The only reasonable justification would be for an athlete who wants to continue competing in more than one sport at the collegiate level. I believe that the same holds true with respect to academic & intellectual ability.

OP, your son is fortunate to have joined a program at a school which will continue to develop him both athletically & intellectually. Congratulations !

The one caveat I would give to @Publisher 's advice is that it only applies if the athlete has the desire to pursue it on that level. And if you arent sure, then probably you don’t have it. There isn’t anything wrong with that either, you just need to be honest with yourself.

I’m not great at describing it, but especially at those top programs the guys are just wired differently. No well balanced sane person would do what they do. I think this applies especially to wrestling which is physically punishing and has the weight cuts, but probably to an extent in all sports. I did tell one coach who was still competing for world team spots, “You know that there is something wrong with all of you, right?” He just smiled and said “yeah, probably.” They wear it as a badge of honor. I dont know that a kid who wanted a good balance between school, athletics and social would fit into those top groups.

To a certain extent I think there are levels within D1 for that. You just need to find the right level. @Publisher is right about how S would have fit in. I like the coach and love the school at Williams, but he would not have thrived there. He also would not have thrived at a D1 without an RTC and people to surround him who have lofty goals. He needs the year round training, both to get where he wants to be but more importantly mentally.

My wife has a hard time understanding where he is coming from sometimes. I told her that at that level guys fit into 2 groups. Ones with an Olympic medal, and ones who have a chip on their shoulder because they don’t have an Olympic medal.

There is no caveat, in my opinion. Either you want to compete or you don’t.

@dadof4kids great idea for a thread. Hopefully wrestling recruits and parents take advantage of your generosity in sharing your son’s experience.

My two cents on D1/D3 in the sport I follow, track, mirrors what you say about wrestling: the vast majority of driven and talented HS track athletes gravitate to D1 for the coaching, facilities but mostly just to be part of a committed group training at a high level. It’s hard to develop without that group. And I think the “wiring” that you mention is a good way to put it. But I do sometimes see very good athletes choose D3. It can work okay in track because the way the sport is structured allows D3 athletes to compete against D1 athletes in some meets. So if I see a D1 track athlete on the fence, agonizing over D1 or D3 at good schools, I usually think D3 is going to be the best choice for that athlete. It’s going to be harder for that athlete to develop, but they’ll stick with the sport and enjoy it.

My son is interested in pursuing wrestling or lacrosse. He’s a rising senior. However, he goes to prep school and doesn’t have the opportunity to wrestle outside of his team’s prep schedule. He’s been undefeated in the regular season and made it to Prep Nationals this year and last but hasn’t made it to All American. He wrestles at his normal weight. Unfortunately his team is small and he really only can practice against 1-2 guys. His coach feels he has a lot of potential but hasn’t had the chance to develop it.

Reading everything above, it doesn’t sound like he has much of a chance at getting recruited. He’s looking at high academic schools with 4 year engineering (Princeton, UPenn, etc.) He’s filled out the recruiting forms and can email coaches - but it sounds like that may be a waste of time if coaches go by FLO primarily. He’s not ranked there.

Any advice on increasing his chances of being recruited? Is it too late? Do college teams support walk ons and wrestle offs for people interested in joining the team?



I don’t know that I would say they go by Flo primarily. I was just using that to show the level he ended up being when he was getting regular unsolicited calls from D1 coaches. I’m sure they are aware of it, and most top 20 programs probably know a bit about all of the kids on the list, at least enough to decide whether or not to pursue them. But if the average D1 program takes 7-8 kids that’s well over 500 kids, a lot more than the 100 rated by Flo. A few of those guys may go D2 or JuCo, usually for academic reasons. I’m guessing rarely does a top 100 kid go D3.

If he doesn’t do any off-season wrestling though, that’s tough. I have a friend who is a couple years older than S. For whatever reason, he never went to Fargo or any of the big off season tournaments. Summer between jr and sr year, he went to a camp for a low to middle of the road D1 program. He was handling everyone pretty easily, so they put a couple college guys on him, who he also hung with pretty well. That got the coach over there. The coach (one of the youngish guys who still rolls around with his athletes) worked with him one on one for an hour, doing different setups to see how he would react. After an hour, he asked the kid (and dad who was there) to come back to the office.

The coach had a white board with names on it, like many of the coaches have. The kid looked at it, and pointed to a few names, saying “I beat him, him and him.” The coach’s response was “Why have I never heard of you before?” For that particular kid, it worked out. But the point is that this was a kid who had beat nationally ranked guys in season, but because he wrestled in an average state (not PA, OH, etc.) this D1 coach didn’t pay any attention to what he did in season. It is just not on their radar. This kid was knocking off studs, and on his way to being a 4 time state champ, but no one outside his state knew him.

I don’t know that much about Prep Nationals. The guys I know who went there were all solid placers who were also well known from other events. I’m just not much help knowing if college coaches watch non-placement matches there or not. That might be adequate to get some attention, I don’t know.

I know at least a couple high academic D1’s allowed walk ons a couple years ago. It wasn’t very common, but a couple coaches from different programs talked about a kid (both talked about only one kid each) who asked to walk on. They both were surprised, but the kid could hang well enough that they let him stay around. Usually they said they only last a few practices before they drop out.

I would look at the profiles of the wrestlers at the schools he is targeting. See what they have listed for acolades.

My son ended up being pretty highly recruited, but that’s not typical. I will say though that he did a ton of off season work. Starting the summer after 6th grade, wrestling became his primary activity, and we traveled pretty extensively for it. He took a lot of losses for a few years, but he was competing against top talent some of the time. It didn’t matter if it was a local small fun tourney or a big national one, if we could make it, we went. I know several guys who did not do that who are still wrestling in college though. I don’t think his path was the only one.

Getting in front of coaches at a camp if any are being held would be good, if possible wrestling in a couple preseason tournaments would be good too.

His odds are probably better at Brown/Harvard/Columbia as far as Ivies. They aren’t as good and might be more likely to roll the dice. Princeton is getting pretty good, and Penn is too. It’s possible but probably less likely. Cornell most likely out. Northwestern has a small team, so less likely to take a flyer on a kid who may or may not develop.

D2 is more likely to take a chance on him, but no high academic schools there really. D3 might, I don’t know which ones have engineering because that isn’t an area any of my kids have cared about. As I alluded to above, D3 isn’t really recruiting from the same pool as D1. A D3 coach has to take more chances. It might be easier to find a coach hoping your son is a diamond in the rough, rather than a known quantity who just isn’t ever going to be better than a D3 level. Tervel Dlagnev is an Olympic medalist who went D2 because he didn’t start wrestling until soph in HS and no D1 would take a chance on him. But a D2 coach was willing to take a flyer and hope his natural talent would bloom over time if he was given a chance.

I’m happy to answer more questions.

@HMom16: Although I attended decades ago, my prep school has a nationally ranked program.

The most recent prep school national champions went to Northwestern, Columbia, and Penn State.

During the summer many wrestle major tournaments & several wrestle in former Soviet Bloc countries.

P.S. Just checked:

Appears that there are 76 D-I wrestling programs;

62 D-II wrestling programs;

109 D-III wrestling programs.


Just checked my prep school’s wrestling schedule & national prep results as well as your son’s prep school schedule & wrestling honors.

Based on your son’s prep school wrestling schedule, it is unlikely that he would be recruited for D-I wrestling.

All 13 varsity wrestlers at my prep school went to nationals. Six (6) wrestlers finished first, five (5) wrestlers finished second, one (1) finished fifth, and the other wrestler finished in sixth place. (The team is typically ranked among the top 5 in the nation & is quite often ranked #1 or #2.)

The most recent recruits went to:

Harvard, Northwestern, Cornell, Penn State, Lehigh, Columbia, Virginia, NC State, Virginia Tech, & Maryland among others.

Not sure, but I believe that all members of the varsity wrestling team receive D-I offers. (Certainly 11 of the 13 starters did recently.)

The prep school practices are demanding–much more demanding than most college programs.

Unless your son is competing against the top wrestlers in the nation at his weight class on a regular basis, it is doubtful that he will be recruited by D-I schools.

My point is that the intense daily & weekly competitions require peak performance by all wrestlers. Based on what I think is your son’s prep school, he would not have the opportunity to compete at this level.

The good news is that D-3 may be an option. But D-3 wrestling is a very different world than D-I. (I tried D-3 wrestling & the practices were far easier than prep school wrestling & this D-3 team was quite successful including league championships & one or two national championship teams. The D-3 individual national champions at their weight class then competed in the D-I tournament but never made it past the second round.)

If your son wants to continue as a multi-sport athlete, then D-3 may be a great option.


Just checked NCAA D2 & D3 list of teams.

Doesn’t appear to be any superior academic quality D-2 teams for your son.

D-3 wrestling teams that might interest your son based on desire for strong academics:

Johns Hopkins University
Wash & Lee University
Univ. of Chicago
Case Western Reserve
RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology)
Williams College

Some interesting D-I wrestling schools:

Bucknell University
Davidson College
Franklin & Marshall College

@dadof4kids: In an above post you wrote that your son was ranked in the high 30s on Flowrestling’s list of Top 100 recruits. Were you referring to a list of top 100 recruits overall or top 100 recruits at his weight class ?

Also, your post #9 above is full of interesting & helpful information.

@HMom16: After researching NCAA recruiting for wrestling, it seems that your son should be able to receive substantial interest from D-3 coaches based on his undefeated regular season record. He should be a very attractive prospect to the most academically challenging D-3 wrestling schools since he can qualify both athletically & academically.

In your son’s case, my best guess is that it is not necessary to be ranked by Flo in order to receive a coach’s support at an academically demanding D-3 wrestling school (CalTech, UChicago, JHU, NYU, RIT, WPI, Wash & Lee, and Williams College, for example).

To place the 76 D-I wrestling schools in perspective, here is a list ranking the Top 25 NCAA D-I wrestling teams:

Preseason Ranking September, 2019:

1)Penn State
2) Iowa
3) Oklahoma State

  1. Ohio State

  2. Wisconsin

  3. ASU (Arizona State Univ.)

  4. Michigan

  5. Missouri

  6. Nebraska

  7. UNI (Northern Iowa)

  8. Minnesota

  9. Lehigh

  10. NC State

  11. Iowa State

  12. Princeton

  13. Northwestern

  14. Virginia Tech

  15. Univ. of Pittsburgh

  16. UNC-Chapel Hill

  17. Univ. of Oklahoma

  18. Old Dominion

  19. Cornell

  20. Univ. of Virginia

  21. Lock Haven (Penna.)

  22. Central Michigan

8 of the top 16 teams are members in the Big 10 Conference. All 14 Big 10 Schools have wrestling teams to the best of my knowledge.

Not sure that it is relevant to the conversation, but those are a bit distorted from kids taking Olympic redshirt years last year. Cornell is #2 in this years preseason rankings.

Pointing it out because it is a high academic school but not a place that a marginal athlete trying to slip in should target.

Also Old Dominion has canceled their wrestling program.

@politeperson what you said I think makes some sense for sports like track, and maybe swimming where you are in essence competing against the clock. But certainly in wrestling, and probably football, basketball, and most other sports, not having the teammates on a high level ultimately will kill your development as @publisher said. It still probably hinders development, but not to the same extent.

Again going to what I know best, in wrestling the top D2 guys and low to average D1 guys are a pretty interchangable group when they come out of high school. 5 years later they are in a completely different place developmentally. The D2 program I am very familiar with is usually one of the top few in the country, and that’s their recruiting pool. But the guys they don’t get are an order of magnitude better than the ones they do by the time they are seniors. Based on the training I know they do, I would guess there is a similar gap between typical D2 and D3 development over the course of a college career.

That was one factor in S’s decision to not pursue Williams. If you take wrestling out of the equation, it would have been a great school for him. And his initial goal was to use wrestling to get into a high academic school that otherwise probably wouldn’t take him (Williams being a great example). But in the end he just couldn’t get over the fact that by going there he would be essentially be accepting that his dreams of being a top athlete in his field and of wrestling on the international scene would be over. He wasn’t willing to make that sacrifice.

Again, they are wired differently at that level. I think by the end if you told him that a JuCo would give him a better chance at making the Olympics, left to his own devices he would take the JuCo over Stanford or Harvard. He got very myopic during that last year. I did have to keep reminding him that in all likelihood his wrestling career would be over at 23, if he was truly blessed he would be allowed to live like a poor college student chasing an Olympic dream until he was 30. They he had another 40 years to make a living off the degree he gets in the next 4-5. That did help bring him back down to earth a bit and get him to consider the big picture. Even though I’m pretty happy where he is, he did have to be reminded periodically that pursuing excellence in his sport was an important goal but not one that should override all others.

I didn’t wrestle but I grew-up and live in an area of Pa where wrestling is very popular. Kids here go to T10 programs. One thing I’ve noticed with some of the top recruits is they seem to transfer and/or sit out a year. Maybe burnout, immaturity, or trying to find that balance of school and wrestling. These kids eat, breathe, and live wrestling 24/7 and then are on their own. It’s a tough transition and wrestlers are some of the most dedicated athletes I’ve known.

I have no idea where your son rates on the D1-D3 scale but fit is everything. Does he live to wrestle or wrestle to live? If he loves wrestling then aim higher. @Publisher hit on it that if you’re going to compete don’t do it half way. It sounds like he has balance in his life which is a good thing. It might help to mention what he wants to major in to give us a better idea about schools. Good luck.

It’s a brutal sport. In basketball or soccer, if you are used to being the superstar it can be humbling to get tossed into a group where you are below average as a freshman. In wrestling you have the same issue. Except on top of that the guy who is better than you (who maybe a few months ago you thought you would be stealing a spot from) is literally beating you up. For 2 hours. Every day. I’ve heard lots of guys who eventually earned D1 hardware talk about getting their first legitimate takedown a month or 2 into practice. With few exceptions, very few HS kids can hold their own with an average D1 wrestler. There is a steep learning curve. Even watching wrestle-offs for the local D2 I have seen kids who got serious D1 looks just get tooled on by D2 sophomores who aren’t good enough to start.

Also, you can make the excuse in other sports that maybe your line isn’t getting their blocks, or you aren’t getting fed the ball like you should. In wrestlng, it’s one on one and if you want things done differently it’s your responsibility to take charge and force your opponent to wrestle your match. When you win, YOU win. When you lose, YOU lose. Sometimes literally with a spotlight on you. Emotionally there are higher highs and lower lows. I have seen some athletes with great potential quit the sport because they couldn’t handle that part of it.

I know this happens with all sports, but I think the physical and emotional intensity of wrestling just leads to a higher burnout rate. Lots of kids who 4-5 years ago were better than my son either stopped progressing or quit the sport entirely. Like I said a couple posts ago, there really does need to be something wrong with you to make all of the physical and emotional sacrifices that the sport requires. I can guarantee you that not a single guy standing on top of the podium at D1’s has what most of us would consider a healthy balance of athletic/social/academic. You just can’t and still compete on that level.