Wrestling Recruiting Tips from Missouri

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Over the past eight years, head coach Brian Smith has molded Missouri's wrestling program into one of the finest in the nation. Since 2003, five Tigers have earned six Big 12 titles; and in 2006, Smith guided 174-pound grappler Ben Askren to the program's first individual National Title. Here, Smith lets us in on some tips for getting recruited.

STACK: What are the top things you look for in a recruit?
First, I look at the kid's transcript. I want to know a kid can handle the college classroom as an athlete. Second, I look at his wrestling to see if he's a year-round wrestler who's committed to the sport and what kind of work ethic he has. I get this information by talking to his club coaches, other coaches in his conference and coaches around the state. I want to hear from a lot of different people that this kid is committed and works hard.

When do you begin showing interest in a recruit?
We start sending them mail their junior year and keep in contact via phone, emails and text messaging. The new trend is getting kids to sign early, so we spend most of our money to finish recruiting by the fall of their senior year. That's why it is important for them to take the ACT in their junior year; they know where they stand and if they need to work on anything academically.

What kind of film should a recruit send?
I don't like highlight videos or films where someone tech falls a guy 15-0. I want two or three of his most competitive matches—even if one's a loss against a highly ranked opponent—because I want to see how he wrestled in a loss, too. Make sure to include who you're wrestling, what state you're from and what color singlet you're wearing.

How much stock do you put in summer camps?
At least 40 to 50 percent of my current team have been campers. It benefits both sides; a kid can come stay in the dorm for a week so he can see the campus and work out in our facilities while our whole team and coaching staff are here. And it's an opportunity for us to see his ability and work ethic and how he blends with the team.

What advice do you have for athletes who aren't blue chip recruits?
Never assume you'll be recruited. Some kids assume coaches will call them, but the reality is that there are fewer programs than good kids. You need to take the initiative and say, "Here is a list of ten schools I'm interested in," and really push yourself on those coaches. Tell them you are interested in their wrestling program as well as their academics. All schools go after the blue chippers, but there are a lot more kids who aren't. Those kids need help from their coaches and parents. We've recruited some kids just because they kept showing interest and really pushed themselves on us. They kept calling and emailing us, which forced our staff to look at them. Even if he isn't the best kid in the country, he may have a great work ethic and unlimited potential. We'll go get him.

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