North Texas Daily

Wrestling club looks to bounce back after forfeiting National Duals

Wrestling club looks to bounce back after forfeiting National Duals

February 11
00:21 2016

Alex Lessard | Associate Sports Editor

@alexlikechexmix

Many people spent Super Bowl Sunday watching the big game with friends and family surrounded by buffalo wings, chips and queso, and a slew of beverages. But mechanical engineering senior Taylor Swanson spent his Sunday suffering a hard-fought dual defeat at a North Texas wrestling meet in Arlington.

At practice the following night, Swanson, the team president, was the first to arrive but had trouble finding motivation to get back into his routine. He watched as others began rolling out the mats, ignoring the aches and pains radiating through his body while he walked gingerly toward his locker.

To Swanson, there was no way he was going to give up now. After all, embracing the grind is exactly what wrestlers take pride in.

“It hurts to lose. You put so much into this,” Swanson said. “Either you quit and be a little girl, or you can keep putting more work in until you get to where you want to be.”

After a successful year in 2014 where the team earned a No. 9 ranking in Division II of the National Collegiate Wrestling Association, the men’s club began its preparation for the January NCWA National Duals in Dalton, Georgia. They made travel arrangements, set up their matches and rented a van for the drive, but only took eight members on the trip because of injuries and a lack of consistent participation.

As a result, the club didn’t meet the tournament’s 11-member requirement. They had to take four forfeits per matchup, meaning they’d have to win five individual duals by pin to earn the victory. They finished with a 1-4 record and headed home early.

Now, the club has moved on to focus on its next challenge: qualifying for the NCWA Nationals tournaments in March.

Marketing sophomore David Wojciki (right) locks up with his opponent at wrestling practice. Nathan Roberts | Staff Photographer

Marketing sophomore David Wojciki (right) locks up with his opponent at wrestling practice. Nathan Roberts | Staff Photographer

“It’s all about how you finish. It doesn’t matter what’s happened,” Swanson said. “All that matters is conference and that national tournament.”

Both the men’s and women’s clubs are preparing to finish their schedule in NCWA’s Southwest conference, which includes schools like the University of Texas and Texas State University. North Texas holds as many as eight optional practices per week at the Pohl Recreation Center, Lewisville High School and Liberty Christian High School, and is open to any dedicated students looking to give wrestling a try.   

However, retaining steady participation has been difficult. The club reached its peak last year, but lost some key members and has struggled to get back on track. Due to the sport’s physical nature, advertising and marketing senior Kedrick Sousa said it’s hard to get newcomers to stick around.

“It’s just really not an attractive thing to do, and after you do it, you really don’t want to do it again,” Sousa said. “If you don’t want to run some miles, getting beat up on by somebody is not cool either.”

Sousa is one of the only original members still standing from the club’s inaugural season four years ago. Back then, the team would hold unstructured practices without a coach, pursuing the goal of teaching the basics of the sport to men and women that have never competed before.

Once former All-American Andre Metzger agreed to become the club’s full-time volunteer head coach, the club had much larger goals in mind. Metzger’s knowledge, skillset and connections in the wrestling industry solidified the club’s long-term future and proved to be a valuable asset in committing his players to put North Texas on the map. 

“If you really want to stick to it, coach is there to help you through the whole thing,” Sousa said. “He loves people that come to practice all the time, and he’s there to work with everybody.”

Metzger has received multiple offers to coach at Division I programs, including the University of Oklahoma. But as a Denton resident, Metzger decided to stay at North Texas, where he’s helped give the club an identity and established the tradition of a competitive attitude on a daily basis.

“There’s no respect in wrestling in the state of Texas,” Sousa said. “If he can take us to be something, that would be more of a joy for him than to start somewhere that gets all the top recruits.”

Although he can’t always make it to practice, Metzger commits a substantial portion of his time to the club. In order to see consistent improvement, he holds the club’s members to a high standard, encouraging them to run anywhere from four to eight miles a day to remain in proper fighting shape.

But with scattered attendance at practices last fall and this spring, he said the club has taken a step back.

“Our conditioning was better last year. I think that’s where we’re hurting right now,” Metzger said. “We’ve got to get our kids in shape, and we’ve only got two or three weeks to get there.”

Aside from conditioning, resiliency is what Metzger preaches the most. He believes wrestling is one of the most mentally draining sports in the world, and determining the winner of each dual is all about who gives up first.

Metzger said the roughest thing for him is that no one thinks schools in Texas are capable of winning, which is exactly what feeds his hunger to keep coaching at North Texas.

“I’d like these guys to win Nationals. I’ll probably stay until I do that,” Metzger said. “Who knows what this program can be.”

With the club still trending upwards from its inaugural season four years ago, maintaining a steady amount of participants will be its biggest obstacle. Through social media, a continued search for high school talent and word of mouth, the club hopes to add on to what they’ve established in their short lifespan.

“There are probably wrestlers still hiding out here,” Swanson said. “We’ve just got to find them.”

Featured Image: Volunteer Head Coach and former Olympian Andre Metzger walks marketing senior Kendrick Sousa through a move. Nathan Roberts | Staff Photographer

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