Updated Wed, Jan 15, 2014 10:32 am
In sweatpants and a hooded sweatshirt Ohio wrestler Noah Forrider jogs around the practice room. Tape clings to his clothes around his ankles and wrists to confine his body heat. Practice is over and most, if not all, of Forrider’s teammates have left for the showers. The true freshman sticks around to push himself further than ever before as he adapts to collegiate level wrestling.
Before he won the Michigan State Open to start his 2013-14 campaign, this frosh had to overcome the challenge of wrestling in his first ever college match. Before that, Ohio’s 141-pounder had to endure the grueling task of offseason workouts and preseason training. Before all that, Forrider had to face some of the toughest competition that high school wrestling could offer with four trips to Ohio’s state tournament.
Forrider had quite the career at Marysville High School (Ohio), compiling 169 victories, finishing in the top-10 at states every year of his high school career and topping it all off with a state championship as a senior. In that championship season he was perfect, stringing together 49 wins and zero losses. He left Marysville as the all-time wins leader.
But there is high school, and then there is college.
“It’s a lot different than high school,” Forrider said. “It’s kind of like starting over again. The biggest difference is probably the intensity, more frequent work outs, more early mornings.”
Knowing he had a good shot at the 141-pound starting spot before the season started, Forrider put a big emphasis on gaining the most experience he could. For that he worked on improving his technique with some of Ohio’s veteran grapplers. With Tywan Claxton, a very quick wrestler, Forrider improved his scrambling abilities. Forrider enhanced his abilities in bottom positions by wrestling with Andrew Romanchik, one of Ohio’s best wrestlers on top. Kagan Squire, who excels at hand fighting, helped strengthen the freshman’s setups. At his weight he has a number of other experienced wrestlers to spar with as well, including Sparty Chino, an NCAA qualifier last season at 157 pounds, and assistant coach Germane Lindsey, who earned 141-pound All-American honors at Ohio four years ago.
“I always want to get the best guy in the room even when I am dead tired,” Forrider said.
Though he has been at Ohio less than six months, Forrider has at times led his teammates through conditioning drills during practice. Then, after practices when most of his teammates have left the wrestling room Forrider can often be found still in the practice room putting forth the extra work, even if just a few minutes more, to help gain an edge on his competitors.
“I come in everyday looking to get something out of it, whether it’s practice or a workout,” he said.
The former Marysville Monarch is a strong wrestler who is quick to react as well as quick on his feet, which helps him in getting free from bad positions. He wrestles best on his feet and on bottom, where Ohio head coach Joel Greenlee believes is most important for young wrestlers. Forrider said the reason behind his proficiency on bottom is mostly attitude.
“You can’t be content with getting ridden out,” he said. “Getting ridden out is an awful feeling. I hate it.” As for his abilities wrestling on his feet, he said it is something he has always liked to do.
“I just think it’s more exciting seeing takedowns so I’ve put a lot of work into getting takedowns,” Forrider said. “And if you’re able to get a takedown at will then you can break a lot of people.”
Aside from Forrider’s strengths, both wrestler and coach agree the rookie needs to work on his technique on top. In that regard, Greenlee calls Forrider a work in progress.
“I think on top, you have to be able to hold somebody down for 30-40 seconds at a time if you want to be one of the elite guys,” Greenlee said. “Obviously that’s what we want him to be and it’s what he wants to be.” Improvement on top and more riding time has certainly been a point of address for the 141-pounder in practice.
Looking back on the Michigan State Open, Forrider’s very first college match stands out to both the freshman and Greenlee. The match displayed all of their offseason work.
Forrider went up against freshman Cameron Kennedy from Michigan. Kennedy finished fifth at the tournament, with his only loss coming from his bout with Ohio’s freshman. After getting taken down and ridden out, Forrider found himself down 3-1 early on in the match. With two big takedowns late and some riding time, which were two points of emphasis for Forrider in practice, he clinched the 6-5 win in the first round of the tournament.
“Gutsy might be the word to come to mind,” Greenlee said to describe his wrestler’s performance.
“I didn’t want to lose my very first match,” Forrider said. “I went from barely winning the first match to winning the whole tournament. I think that was a turning point.”
Following the opening round, he won his next match by major decision, 19-5, and then won his next three matches by decision to go 5-0.
“I felt like this preseason I worked as hard as I could everyday and I just felt like it had paid off with the title,” the 141-pounder said. He said the big weekend was a rewarding experience that will motivate him to keep continue to push himself on a daily basis, to see what else he can win.
Following the open tournament, the Bobcats took part in the Easter Michigan Duals. Forrider lost in team play to wrestlers from Drexel and Utah Valley but salvaged the event with a pin in his final match against Travis Barroquillo of Indiana Tech. Then at the Navy Classic, Forrider put together another solid performance in which he was just a match away from claiming fifth place. He placed fifth at the Reno Tournament of Champions on Dec. 22. At the Southern Scuffle he went winless but most recently he defeated Tyler Argue of Northern Illinois.
To this point, Forrider carries a 17-10 record, a rather impressive mark for a true freshman. He is ready for the big stage and is in no way intimidated. If nothing else, his performance might be benefitting from the pressure – or the lack thereof as he sees it.
“Right now as a freshman I feel like I’ve got no pressure on me as far as wrestling the ranked guys,” Forrider said. “They have everything to lose and I have nothing to lose. I look forward to wrestling those ranked guys, and hopefully beating them and making my case for qualifying for the NCAA’s, and hopefully, becoming an All-American.”
He certainly has some lofty goals, but he does not lack the drive to attain them.
“He has a passion, a hunger to be good,” Greenlee said. “He’s not satisfied winning the Michigan State Open. He’s not satisfied winning a state championship in high school.”
Forrider’s next test will come against Central Michigan, when the Bobcats travel to take on the Chippewas on Jan. 17.