Updated Mon, Dec 10, 2012 2:25 pm
When a freshman joins a college wrestling team, it is common for him to be redshirted his first year on campus. Such is the case for many freshmen who wrestle for Bobcat head coach Joel Greenlee. Of the 17 freshmen on Ohio’s roster, 11 were redshirted last season, and the other six are new to the team this year. This method is typically employed to introduce new wrestlers to college level wrestling.
Freshman Phil Wellington is just one of the 11 who were redshirted, and his 9-5 record, along with other successes this season indicate the extent to which last season spent as a redshirt has helped him. He is off to a great start in his first season of full competition, and he attributes a good amount of his success to the time he spent redshirted.
“That redshirt year really helped me transition into what college wrestling is all about,” said Wellington. “I didn’t really have a good grasp on it until the middle of (last) year.”
Coach Greenlee described the purpose of a redshirt season, saying, “What you try to do when you’re redshirted is prepare yourself to compete. You get to compete in probably one or two tournaments a month in the months of November, December, January, and then wrestling is kind of over for you. It’s not the daily grind, whereas (a season of full competition) is the daily grind. The grind is ‘what do I have to do to get better today…I gotta lift hard to today…I gotta run hard today’. You’re trying to do those things as a redshirt but it doesn’t always happen.”
In the 2011-12 season, Wellington posted a 28-12 record in tournaments. In those competitions he placed five times, was runner up at the Harris Open and won the Storm Open. Speaking about those tournaments, the redshirt freshman said, “Last year was a lot different and there wasn’t much pressure at all. I wasn’t in the starting lineup. I was just wrestling with my friends and in open tournaments.”
Wellington comes from Euclid, Ohio, where he wrestled at Villa-Angela St. Joseph High School. At his time there, Wellington wrestled his way to a 140-39 record as well as two trips to the state tournament and a fourth place finish.
The former Viking spent last season wrestling in the 184-pound weight class, but this year, he is wrestling at 197 pounds. He jumped up a weight class to fill a spot where the Bobcats lacked a wrestler.
The 197-pounder attributes his growth to offseason work outs, saying, “I was (in Athens) pretty much the whole summer, most of the summer, just wrestling around with our heavyweight and lifting pretty hard. (I) had to get stronger because I bumped up a weight class.”
In addition to wrestling with Jeremy Johnson, Wellington also lifted and ran with the All-American.
“Jeremy Johnson does everything at an unbelievable pace,” said Greenlee. “When he’s running he’s probably a top five or six guy on our roster of 30 guys. That was a great way for Phil to figure out, ‘Hey this is what I have to do to be where I want to be, to be where (Johnson) is.’”
In a young 2012-13 campaign, Phil Wellington has already has a marquee moment to look back on. In a meet versus Eastern Michigan on December 2, the 197-pounder entered the match finale with his team down 16-14. Wellington defeated his opponent in a 4-2 decision that gave the Bobcats a 17-16 victory over the Eagles.
“It felt awesome,” said Wellington. “I knew it was going to come down to me towards the end of the dual so I just tried to mentally prepare for that and it felt great afterward. Great win for us.”
When asked how big his wrestler’s victory was, coach Greenlee simply replied, “Huge.” He later said, “I think he has done a great job this year as far as being prepared to win matches and training hard and doing all the right things. It was a big win for him and hopefully it propels him to bigger and better things.”
In addition to his offseason training, Wellington notes that wrestling tough in practice, preparing for competitions, and improving technically have helped him be successful this season. His coach indicates things like mat-savvy and a strong presence as things that have helped his wrestler throughout each match. Furthermore, Greenlee said of Wellington, “He’s not tentative, he knows what he wants and he goes out there and takes it.”
Wellington and Greenlee both say the freshman’s strengths include wrestling in the neutral position. They also both agree that Wellington can improve his wrestling in the bottom position.
“He’s gotten better there but he needs to continue to get better. He’s going to run into guys that are pretty good on top and you’ve got to be able to get away from those guys if you’re going to the national tournament, be an All-American, all those things.”
Wellington seems to be on the same page as his coach, noting being a MAC Champion and All-American as his goals. In order to accomplish these goals, however, a freshman like Wellington needs to stay focused throughout a long season. “It’s easy for those guys to get down on themselves,” said Greenlee. “This is their first time through it. The wrestling season goes from November through March…it’s a long haul.”
Though there are a number of challenges for Ohio’s freshman wrestlers, the team is off to a good start. With nine freshmen getting solid time on the mats already, it appears that the team’s success hinges on how well its freshmen handle the pressures of a long wrestling season. Additionally, their successes will pace the Bobcat’s for the next four years.
Phil Wellington is excited for those coming years, as well as this season, and he sees the potential of his fellow freshmen.
“I feel like over the years we are going to develop and just climb up on those rankings.”
If the experiences of a redshirt season have helped Ohio’s freshmen as it helped Wellington, then there is no doubt that the future of Ohio wrestling is bright.