COLUMBIA — Freshmen wrestlers Matt Manley and Tony DeAngelo can’t wait to showcase their skills on the mat for Missouri.
They won’t get their opportunity until next season, though: They are too young.
The transition from high school to college is challenging for most freshmen. It is the first time many of them are living away from home. It is also the first time many must manage their time without their parents’ input. Successes and failures are their own to claim and bear.
The challenges are magnified for student athletes. Practice, training and weekday competitions can impact their academic performance.
To avoid this problem, the Missouri wrestling team requires its freshmen to redshirt — or sit out of competition for a year to save a season of eligibility.
This is not a requirement practiced around the nation, but it's one the Missouri coaches think makes sense.
“You’re juggling class, you’re juggling social life and you’re juggling being a Division I athlete,“ head assistant coach Sammie Henson said Thursday. “Those things take a lot, and its good to have a year to adjust to that.”
For freshmen like Manley and DeAngelo, who both had outstanding high school careers, the process can be frustrating and disappointing.
Manley, a native of Perry, Okla., wrestled for national powerhouse Perry High School. Known for producing top recruits, Perry has won 55 state championships since 1952. Manley was a four-time letter winner for the powerhouse, finishing his high school career with a record of 171-17 and three state championships.
DeAngelo was also a three-time state champion — in North Carolina. In his four years at Southern Alamance High School in Graham, N.C., DeAngelo tallied a 191-10 record and was named a four-time All-American.
Both chose Missouri because of its strong winning tradition. Both looked forward to contributing to that tradition. Both had to come to terms with the fact that they would have to wait one more year to do so.
The redshirt year gives them time to adjust not only to college life but also to the higher level of competition in collegiate wrestling.
“It’s quite a bit different (from high school),” Manley said. “In high school, I was 'The Guy.’ Nobody could beat me in the practice room. Coming here, you’re wrestling three and four-time state champions everyday.”
Henson says that physicality is one of the biggest challenges because of the difference between training at the high school and college levels.
“In high school, your season’s three months,” he said. “In college, there’s basically no offseason.”
The highly technical aspects of collegiate wrestling can also be daunting for freshmen wrestlers who had winning records in high school but got by on sheer talent. At the collegiate level, where competitors are often equally talented, the technical skills separate the winners and losers.
The year of waiting proves valuable. Freshmen like Manley and DeAngelo still get frustrated from time to time, but their teammates who have been through it offer encouragement.
“Everybody on the team is really good at keeping each other up,” DeAngelo said. “We’re like a big family, and everybody takes care of each other.”