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Why college freshman are better than ever

As the 2022-23 wrestling season begins, we are already seeing the rankings being thrown to the wind. Freshman Jesse Mendez upset over 3rd ranked Lucas Byrd capped off an impressive week for unranked wrestlers. The question, though, is why are there so many more upsets happening now.

First and foremost, the progression of highschool wrestling coaching and the spread of information means that highschoolers are getting better coaching than ever. Most major recruits are coming from a handful of clubs, and these clubs are run by coaches from powerhouse wrestling colleges. Their knowledge of the sport is being handed down to younger and younger athletes, who are thus better at younger ages. Then, when they arrive on campus, they aren’t as far behind. They can catch up to the rest of the competition much quicker. 

Secondly, advances in nutrition and sports science allows us to train more and reach our genetic potential sooner. While there is obviously a ton of hard work that goes into being an elite wrestler, there are also many genetic factors as well, and our advances allow us to reach that potential sooner, meaning freshmen don’t have to wait as long to be elite. 

Lastly, Lucas Byrd is a seventh year senior. Many of the elite wrestlers in college right now are a year older than they should be. Because of the covid year, there are many sixth and seventh year seniors. Your body can only handle so much, and 7 years of college wrestling is just too much. Wrestling has often been described as one of, if not the hardest sport. Although I am biased, I would have to agree. After seven years, your body begins to break down and the injuries stop you from competing at your best. In a sport with such little room for error, wrestling through injuries rarely works.


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