Wrestling fans have been spoiled with the myriad of seniors announcing their return for a final season. Because of the virus, the NCAA granted winter sport athletes an extra year of eligibility and essentially deemed the 2021 season a “free year.”
Of course, Hawkeye fans are pumped to see Spencer Lee get his shot at a fourth title, and Pitt fans are thrilled to see NCAA finalist Jake Wentzel take the mat again. (For a full list, check out FloWrestling’s Senior Tracker here.)
But what about the seniors who elected to not use their extra year of eligibility? Should fans still continue to cheer on those athletes in their post-collegiate careers?
Every fan wishes their favorite competitors could continue to wrestle, but oftentimes the fans forget that these athletes are young, twenty-something year olds who are also pursuing degrees during the week and kicking butt on the weekend. Would you want to stay in school for six, seven, or eight years with the rigorous routine of a D1 athlete? I doubt it. So let’s talk about the completely valid reasons why certain seniors are not returning in 2022 and why you should still support them.
Focusing on Continuing Education
As I already said, taking classes and wrestling a D1 schedule at the same time is TOUGH. Louie Hayes decided that he would not return to Virginia and instead focus on continuing his education. According to UVAToday, Hayes will “pursue a business career in Chicago, quite possibly following in his father’s footsteps in the beer industry.”
Though he would be a strong returner for the Cavaliers at 133 lbs, he did ultimately reach his goal to become an All-American this year when he placed 8th at NCAAs.
Starting A Career in Coaching or Elsewhere
Other wrestlers are putting their degrees to work immediately by entering the workforce. This includes wrestlers, such as Jesse Dellavecchia, jumping right into coaching positions.
Rider’s NCAA Finalist has already accepted a Volunteer Assistant coaching position at Army.
In an article with NJ.com, he said, “A lot of people want me to come back, but there’s more to life than wrestling. I’m excited for the next chapter. I love training and wrestling and I’m enjoying this now, but I’m excited for the future.”
Similarly, Little Rock’s first-ever NCAA qualifier Paul Bianchi has plans to work as a graduate assistant at Little Rock while pursuing his Master’s Degree in Sports Management.
Even though student-athletes can now make money based on their name, image, and likeness, do not be surprised that these wrestlers want to start earning a nice guaranteed chunk of change after a costly education.
Many wrestlers have been competing in college for five to six years. Michael Kemerer even joked on Twitter about pursuing his doctorate in his 7th year of college. All joking aside, going to classes every day, cutting weight, and training takes a toll on your body and mind.
In January 2021, Oklahoma State’s Boo Lewallen talked on FloWrestling’s Bader Show about why he is not returning for a 2022 season. He said, “For me, it’s just… pretty hard to stay motivated to continue to go to class when you’ve already graduated.”
Can you blame him? He has already made the stand twice, finishing 8th in 2018 and 4th in 2021. It’s okay to want to move on.
Whether the seniors returning did or did not accomplish their ultimate goals, they all must find ways to move on with their lives at some point. While many wrestlers are using their extra year of eligibility, some wish to get a jumpstart to “life” a bit quicker than others, and wrestling fans should applaud them either way. At the end of the day, Jesse Dellavecchia’s words ring very true, “there’s more to life than wrestling.”