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The Transition - High School to College Wrestling

16 Sep 2017

The Transition - High School to College Wrestling

By Matt Opheim

The definition of transition is the process or period of changing from one state or condition

to another. It’s a fairly straight forward concept, transition. We transition in many ways every

day, every hour, every minute. Everything we do requires some kind of transition. The latest

statistics show that of the 3.2 million high school graduates, 2.1 million of them (66%) enroll in

college the following fall after high school graduation.

In 2016, there were 250,653 participants in high school wrestling across the country. In

2016, there were 7,075 participants in college wrestling or 2.8% at the D1, D2 and D3 levels.

Individually, D1 participants represented 1.0% of the total pool, D2 represented 0.8% of the

total pool and D3 represented 1.0% of the total pool of participants. Why aren’t more high

school graduates that participated in wrestling transitioning to the college level? Because it is


The college myth. College is the beginning of real life, it’s a time for taking responsibility,

owning your decisions, getting fewer second chances and being alone in the process. The college

myth is real when it comes to wrestling. High school accolades are nice, and sometimes, a good

indicator of future success on the mat, but let’s consider that most new college students have not

dug deep enough to understand the realities of college life and how they will react to their new

environment before arriving on campus. The foundation of a wrestling career is created at the

youth and high school level, but past performance is much less of an indicator of future success

than many might think.

A high degree of success in high school wrestling has proven time and time again to have

little impact on success at the college level. A different set of circumstances surround the

individual. A successful transition from high school to college wrestling begins with an

understanding that the season is longer, the intensity is much greater and the mental and physical

demands are exponentially higher than wrestling in high school. There is no comparison in

talent from a high school program to a college program. College wrestlers know what they are

doing. Not one athlete in a college room is needing reinforcement of basic technical standards of

wrestling as is the case of at least 50% of a high school wrestling room.

In high school, most teams practice once per day for approximately two hours after school.

A college team is lifting at 6 a.m. or 7 a.m. before they begin their morning classes. They attend

class, then after lunch, there is an afternoon workout, class, dinner, team study table, then an

evening workout. There isn’t a lot of free time.

The length of the season in high school usually lasts from mid-November to mid-February.

In college, from the time an athlete sets foot on campus in mid-August, until late March to early

April and the college athlete is wrestling consistently during that time span. Going from a short

three months (or more like two and a half with the holiday breaks) to consistently wrestling for

eight months solid is a significant different in circumstances.

The mental and physical toll that college wrestling takes on an individual is not something

to be taken lightly or out of context, it is very real. By the time the high school wrestling season

comes to a conclusion, most athletes are mentally ready for the end of the season. The college

wrestling season is only half way complete by the time the high school season has ended. Reality

hits a college wrestler hard in about mid-January, with a little more than half the season left to go.

The mental and physical toll at this point can be overwhelming. Keeping up with classes,

maintaining weight, working hard day in and day out is much more rigorous than a high school

wrestler might imagine.

The wrestling lifestyle becomes a time and a half job in college. Athletes must prepare

mentally for the rigors of college wrestling. It is not a good idea to compare their high school

wrestling season, accomplishments or routines with a college wrestling experience. To compare

the two in any way other than the pure aspect of wrestling itself is a good way to get

overwhelmed quickly with the rigors of the college wrestling experience.