Sports often require athletes to learn to dig deeper and go beyond what they know, which is the way an athlete achieves growth. This also requires consistent work day in and day out, even if the results aren’t immediately seen. This mimics a wrestler’s patience on the mat when facing his opponent, making sure not to be too eager or impatient, relying on his training, and displaying fortitude until the perfect moment to strike presents itself.
This approach is not unlike that of Derek Moore, head wrestling coach, who understands building his players up on one front and handling the changes the program has been going through on another.
“You sometimes think of excellence as being perfect, but for sport and for wrestling, it is about choosing to constantly make those gains, and that is where we’re at right now. Searching for the excellence in the fight, searching for the excellence in the effort,” Moore said.
What helps to set this program apart is not just the way it approaches the physical or the mental but the way it also integrates the spiritual, displaying the values that students and athletes alike hold dear. It reflects not just on the values of the school but also the care that the coaches and athletes have for one another in their search for excellence.
“I think it’s a very powerful thing in sport to know that God has a plan for us, and it is good to know that he will not give us more than we can handle. Maybe it won’t come right now, but we have to trust that process. It’s very similar to what most coaches say without the power of the creator behind it,” Moore said.
This dedication in the search for greatness is reflected in players like Hunter Leake and Elijah Griffin. Griffin was honored by the BIG 12 Conference by being named “the Big 12 Wrestler of the Week for the 11th award of the season after defeating Northern Colorado’s [nationally] third-ranked Stevo Poulin,” according to the conference’s website.
Griffin would continue riding on this success, eventually taking down Ryan Henningsen in a record 20 seconds at North Dakota State. Leake, for his part, has been a significant contributor to the team and brings in the wins when the team needs them most, beating out Fernando Barreto with a pin to win the match at North Dakota State.
Seeing how these two upperclassmen have stepped up to the plate and helped to push the program forward is something Moore hopes to instill in the up-and-coming wrestlers as well.
“Both those guys have put themselves in the positions to qualify for a spot at the [BIG12] conference, which increases their likelihood of qualifying for the NCAAs,” said Moore, “He’s [Elijah Griffin] leaning into the process that we are trying to build, and he’s been a great example of that. When he’s in the room wrestling, it means something to him; every moment of that practice is intense.”
The younger talent on the team has certainly been taking note, with many starting to step out into their own prospective roles on the team. It is this kind of commitment that keeps the team hungry and eager season after season.
“We also have some very tough young talent on the team right now,” Moore said. “Drayden Morton bumped up a weight class last weekend at South Dakota State, and he beat a ranked opponent as a redshirt. Carter Schubert went out against Northern Colorado and got a solid win against Derek Matthews, who beat a ranked opponent. These two guys aren’t in our lineup this year, but they’re already showing that ability,” Moore said.
Chaz Hallmark, senior financing major, reflects on some of the closer matches of the season and the cohesion both the players and the coaches build with one another as the team moves forward, especially for those closer matches.
“I see the team closing the gap with our competition by trusting in our coaching staff who have been at the highest levels and succeeded, and trusting in their process that they see as well as being intentional with every day we have left in the rest of the season,” Hallmark said.
Wrestlers also have an added dimension to their sport, particularly when it comes to diet. This extra pressure could be seen as detrimental to some, but to others, a tool to help strengthen mental fortitude.
“When competing at the Division I level, every sport is extremely taxing on your body and mind, from practices to balancing school and friends,” said Hallmark. “However, the portion of wrestling that sets it apart from other sports would have to be the strict discipline that goes into making weight on a weekly basis. No other sport requires the athlete to not just watch their food intake but their water intake as well and this added factor forces wrestlers to develop a mental toughness that isn’t seen in other sports.”
As the wrestling team continues to grow and change, many of the younger players are stepping up to the challenge. Carrying on the traditions and dedication of many wrestlers before them, cultivating a culture of excellence.
“I knew a lot of what to expect because my older brother Dayne wrestles in college [for CBU]. Ultimately, no matter what level you are at, it is just a game, and you need to have fun with it. God has given me this gift and determination, and I want to glorify him in it,” said Drayden Morton, freshman sports management major.
With the team a little over halfway through the season, many of the wrestlers are eagerly anticipating and preparing for the NCAA National Championships in March, which, for some members of the team, is their final chance at glory.
“My goal for our team as we close out this season is to take as many guys to the NCAA tournament and chase down all-American status,” Hallmark said. “As for myself, I want to qualify for the NCAA tournament, and this being my final year, I want to prepare myself as best as possible to leave everything out on the mat regardless of the outcome, knowing I gave it my all.”