[AUTHORS NOTE-Season 5, Column 8, with an Olympic recap, previews/features on George Mason, Iowa State, Wyoming, NC State, Oregon State, rankings and some notable Southern Scuffle and coaching change notes, can be found by continuing to scroll up after finishing this article. If you so choose. Hope you so choose].
A PACIFIC NORTHWEST MAN ON FIRE
The history, experience and life trajectory of the new (sort of) Head Coach at the oldest (not that old) wrestling program in Florida is the epitome of the fascinating story. The Beatles predicted Travis Patricks trip to the top spot at Lakeland, Floridas Southeastern Fire University Wrestling team. It has definitely been a long and winding road. A simple request for a feature piece revealed a life story WELL worth learning about.
Raised in the Pacific Northwest, Travis Patrick found the mat fairly early. And he found it to his liking. Father Mark took young Patrick and his older brother to the Castle Rock (WA) Youth Program signups, held around high school events. “I took to it pretty naturally from the start and won more matches than I lost in our local Youth League,” said Patrick. “I hated losing, so what I lacked in wrestling knowledge or ability I made up for in competitive nature.” A clear delineator of longterm potential for success? “I loved practice, Patrick offered, (and) wrestling became a natural part of my routine.” Patrick went four for four, qualifying every year for the State Tournament, but placed only one time. “I believe I was capable of achieving a lot more during my high school career than I did. Physically, I was gifted in the sport but I struggled with some mental battles in my career. If I had been able to overcome or learn how to handle (those issues) earlier I would have been able to win a state title. I think that knowledge helps me in my coaching career.” Patricks personal successes and struggles moved his coaching acumen needle in the right direction for guiding the growth of the modern student-athlete. “One of the things I love about coaching is that I get to help the young men in my program learn how to become students of the sport and overcome obstacles in their training and preparation.” Patrick, though successful, wasn’t a Top 200 recruit and his desire for an honest and even blend of faith, academics and athletics was going to narrow his choices. Enter Concordia College, a private, non-profit Lutheran- based University in Seward, Nebraska. “I talked to a couple schools on the west coast and a few more in the Midwest but Coach (Doug) Reese and Coach (Garett, now assisting Troy Nickerson at Northern Colorado) Kiley did a great job connecting with me during the recruiting process.” While it was a one year pit stop in Patrick’s wrestling progression, it was a MEMORABLE one, folks. Daily tooth and nail throwdowns with talented teammate Adam Joseph forced Patrick to step up in a hurry. “My freshman year (@ Concordia) was a great year and a good learning experience. For being a young program (Reese had revived Concordia in 2008) we had a tough room. We qualified ten guys to the National Tournament. Adam was one of those out and out battles in the room and at tournaments that definitely helped me grow and develop.” A tangible result of those battles for Patrick was a mid season title at the York Open. And then there was the case of the Disappearing Trailer, not something you can train or really prepare for. Patrick: “We got to the venue ( for Nationals) the day before and went to get some weight off. When we got back to the hotel room someone had cut the padlock off the trailer hitch and stolen our trailer that had our food and extra bags in it. I think it was pretty quickly, maybe a day later that the Police found it at a drug house in the area and were able to get it back.” Supposedly after being told it was a long, looong shot at a return. Thank goodness for Law Enforcement Officers who are former wrestlers. POSSIBLY. With a full roster in his wt class and Coach Kiley leaving, the West Coast came back into focus for Patrick. Off to Southern Oregon where “It was nice to be within driving distance from home for sure and it was familiar as I knew a few guys from my area that had graduated from SOU. The coaching staff at Concordia had been great to me. I just felt that God was leading me in the direction of SOU and it was the right move for me at that point in my career. (SOU Coach) Mike Ritchey tought me a lot about the sport and has been a great mentor to me in my coaching career as well. He built a dynasty at SOU over the years and developed a brotherhood within the team that helped sustain that success.” A huge part of the SOU success during that time, the presence of the Gutches brothers, two siblings of a transcendent American wrestling family. The star quality was evident but there was more than that to Brock and his brother, Bryson , Patrick outlined. “Brock and I came to SOU the same year. We were teammates for four years in which he won four national titles and our team achieved three NAIA runner-up finishes.” A significant weight difference precluded much one on one work with Gutches but “he was a great guy to learn from when it came to training and how he approached matches. (Gutches) is also a down to earth guy and I enjoy catching up with him and the rest of that group when I get a chance to get back to the West Coast.” When this column gets back the finish of Patricks mat career, college trials, and coaching path will come fully into focus as you get to know the guiding light of Southeastern Fire Wrestling. (1)
You more than likely don’t know Kris Hayward. The Scribe knows him barely at best. Hayward was a wire thin highest energy lightweight champ for Ron Jones Sarasota (FL) Sailors back in the day day, never really losing a big match. He just ran out of time now and then. A sterling career coaching student athletes, building champions and championship teams and producing and mentoring coaches across the state of Florida followed. Fate, oftimes, is not satisfied with all that givers give and it will reach for more. That hand tapped Hayward on the back in 2013 with an outstretched palm and a beckoning finger. This author doesnt know if Kris made this public back then. Doesn’t matter. A man and his family have their own time for these things. Hayward announced he was stepping away from the Riverdale (FL) Raiders program a few days back. The diagnosis, MND/ALS. Hayward, on his Twitter feed: “I have been blessed to be able to coach for an additional 9 years. It’s been a good run.” Indeed. Theres more, of course, new coaches named, people thanked, and a marvelous spirit revealed. Lets give Coach Hayward the last word here: “Thanks for all the love, respect, support and prayers. Sometimes in life we have to make a pivot. That’s all this is…a small change in direction.” #GiddyUp
ANNA 1,AN-NA 2,THATSA SO NICE,I-A-WA
Lawrence Welk. If you still have Grandparents (lucky you!) ask them. Ask WrestleStat about their thought process when a fortnite or so back they dropped their 2021-22 individual and team rankings. Theres JUST a bit of Black and Gold Iowa flavor to this folks, with 4 Hawkeyes listed #1. Seven of the ten weight classes saw somebody OTHER than the defending National champ get the top spot out of the box. One who did snag a preseason #1, last yrs 149lb champ Austin O’Connor of UNC, is numero uno at 157. Defending champ at that wt? Returning. His schools male athlete of the year last season. Iowa States David Carr, UNDEFEATED 2021 champ, you are THIRD. You can hear Vince Lombardi bellowing from his grave. What the H*LL is going on around here?! Listed here with last years finish/this years preseason rank, some wt class by wt class Whut-Whuts…125lbs: Brandon Courtney, Arizona State, 2/7. Killian Cardinale, West Virginia, 7/14. Eric Barnett, Wisconsin, 8/20. 141lbs: Dylan Duncan, Illinois, 5/10. Kyle Parco, Fresno St (now Arizona St), 6/15. Clay Carlson, South Dakota State, 8/13. 149lbs: Jaden Abas, Stanford, 7/14. Jonathan Millner, Appalachian State, 8/12. 157lbs: Wyatt Sheets, Oklahoma State, 8/16. 197lbs: Jake Woodley, Oklahoma, 6/18. 285lbs: Cohlton Schultz, Arizona State, 4/10. Tate Orndorff, Ohio State, 8/17. Now, folks, there ARE more than a few All Americans who have shifted weight classes and notably, 3 champs as well. O’Connor we mentioned. Theres 2019 165lb Champ Mekhi Lewis of VA Tech and 2021 165lb champ Shane Griffith of Stanford, both ranked at 174. Griffiths listed at 165 on Stanfords current roster, BTW, so theres that. Tip of the headgear and a curious glance in Wrestlestats direction from here.
GOLDEN EAGLES GOING BIG
The seesaw seasons for the Clarion Golden Eagles may be settling in for a nice upward trajectory in 21-22. Theres no shortage of sturdy scrappers for Keith Ferraros 8th go round as the B.G.E.(2) at the school in the Pennsylvania town of the same name. 42 wrestlers will wear the Blue and Gold this year. Only four Grad students or seniors and seven juniors leaves 31 spots filled by underclassmen. A choppy 3-5 regular season last year gave little indication the Eagles would take off come Conference time. They did, though, with a 5 spot improvement in the team standings from the previous season. Folks, it was a TOTAL team effort. Exactly 1 Golden Eagle, hulking 197lb Greg Bulsak, qualified for NCAAS finishing 3rd at the MAC Tournament. Four more from the Eagles convocation, though, were perched somewhere between 4th and 8th when the MAC Tournament dust settled. Bulsak has since transferred to Rutgers but the rest of Clarions placewinners return. 165lb Kolby Ho, the former GMU Patriot(3), the 6th place Conference finisher, is joined by brother Chandler. Last years 174lb competitor John Worthing, 5th at the MAC, says hello to brother Brady. BTW, Johns listed at 149 this year. And there’s a SHOUT OUT to 184lb Max Wohlabaugh, Winter Springs, FL, Winter Springs HS, who in 2021 competed in his 3rd wt class, finishing 4th at Conference in his 5th year as a starter. Yes, 5th, Covid. You understand it, right? Sure as Hell don’t want to get it. Trust the Scribe on that one. Get this, though; get used to seeing moore than a few Golden Eagles foes go flying this season. At the hands of Brent Moore, @mrbonesaw, late of Virginia Tech, former ACC champ, and more recently out of wrestling and severely out of sorts physically and mentally. Words and hands of encouragement from former Rider National Finalist Jesse Delavecchia and current Clarion assistant Brock Zacherl helped Moore make up his mind and ready his body for one more go-round. The family business loss is Clarions gain as Brent boosts the Golden Eagles MAC & NCAA qualifying threats to a solid half dozen wrestlers if not Moore. Oops, he did it again. Theres seasoned big man Ty Bagoly, 8th at 285 last year who’ll finish Top 4 this time around. 8th place 141lb Kyle Schickels conference wt class sees 4 of the Top 5 seeds returning but theres improvement room there for the talented sophomore. There, thats a quick look see at Clarion for you. SURE would be nice to see them in Chattanooga. Just sayin.
SO COOL, SO HOT, SOCON
Appalachian State released its full 12 man list of new Mountaineers headed to Boone for academic and athletic success. A deep dive on App States crew for 21-22 will come in a later column. For now know John Mark Bentley and his coaching crew are continuing to bring the Tar Heel State talent into their room. Nearly half the new Mountaineers are homegrown talents.
See you next week!
(1) The Fires schedule for the 2021-22 season is available. Thanks to Coach Patrick and Donnie Smith, Assistant AD for Communications, for the timely release.
H 10/29 Red/Black Intrasquad A 11/13 Tri-Meet Reinhardt, Truett-McConnell A ? St. Thomas A 11/20 Life University Open H 12/3 Keiser A. 12/17 Providence A 12/19 Reno Tournament of Champions A ? NWCA National Duals H 1/15 SEU Fire Duals Cumberland, Hastings, St. Thomas, Keiser A 1/21-22 Missouri Valley Invite A 1/29 Montreat, Truett-McConnell H 2/4, 7 PM Life U. (Def. Nat. Champs) H 2/10 Brewton-Parker Sr. Day Dual A 2/19 National Qualifying Tournament A 3/4-5 NAIA National Championships
(2) Big Golden Eagle, of course. To see one in the Wild will have your spirits soar just a little bit. Perhaps more than a little.
(3)The #BeUncommon crew are regularly featured here, most recently in Column 3 this season, 7/2/21, AND this month in Intermat MAC correspondent Courtney Woods excellent off the mat, behind the scenes feature, link graciously allowed: