While the last post discussed the financial situation surrounding Highline (and a little post about the assistant coaching situation), this will focus on the recruiting aspect at Highline or should I say lack thereof. Along with what I believe is the talent pool surrounding Highline, that could and should be competing for a team trophy at the national tournament every year. I won’t try to get too much in depth with the last part, because I plan on putting it all together in my last post. Discussing what should and needs to be done to make HCC the program that many of us know that it could be. So without further adieu….here we go!
The teams at Highline have been all pretty lackluster, foregoing a couple of bright spots more individually based, with a couple of competitive teams. With the best team placing in the top ten at the national tournament. Highline has, however, had its share of finalists and All-Americans, with the only national champion coming during Norton’s time as head coach. But that's where it stops. Highline does compete in a region where two of the best programs in the nation compete, so I will give a little bit of leniency regarding not going undefeated in conference duals or winning the conference title every year. Most years, the conference championships resemble a Clackamas and North Idaho dual meet, with a couple of other programs wrestlers sprinkled in.
Some may remember, but Clackamas was really non-existent until Josh Rhoden took over the program and made it where it is today. In fact, it was usually Clackamas and YVCC that were counted as shoein’s for Highline year in and year out. But now, we can all see the benefits of having a dedicated staff where their sole job is to coach, recruit, and win. Within a few years of taking over the program at Clackamas, Rhoden had them winning and competing for a national title.
This is where it can all be changed though, because we all know the success that Washington is having as a whole from the schoolboy levels through Jr’s. We are experiencing the most success at every level that hasn't been seen before. So why is it that Highline gets only .001% of the wrestlers from the state to come and compete for them? Throughout all of the other excuses about facilities, mismanagement of finances, etc. If you were able to get thirty to forty wrestlers to actually come out and wrestle and sell them on the fact that if they came to your program 1-2 years, possibly three, you would do your due diligence to get them into a four year college program somewhere else. That sells! Getting kids into other programs is what everyone is looking at, not the other intangibles (yes facilities are important and finances and I will cover that more indepth next).
Which brings me to the next point, Highline literally sits in one of the hotbeds of wrestling within the state of Washington. If you drew a 50 mile wide circle around Highline you would find schools such as Tahoma, Enumclaw, White River, Bonney Lake, Auburn, Yelm, Auburn Riverside, South Kitsap, Peninsula, Curtis, Orting, and on and on. Point being is you could just recruit in your own backyard, and not even look anywhere else.
I didn't even mention the Seattle schools which are starting to show a lot of talent as well. When recruiting in college there are a couple of avenues to take. One is the shotgun approach, where you send info to every state participant and see who is interested and then go from there. Or you break it down into recruiting specific areas, and then systematically recruit the type of kids that will build your program. Strong work ethic, morals, meshes well with the team, strong academically, hungry, etc.
The areas I referred to have to do with the state, based on geography and not having student housing, Highline can’t really recruit the whole state effectively. Now there are ways around that but again, I ll conclude with that in the last post. It’s hard to recruit Spoakane because of NIC, and Southwest Washington kids tend to migrate towards Oregon, Tri-Cities is a toss up. One would think Eastern Oregon would be capitalizing on all Washington wrestlers ( the closest public four year university that doesn't have a D1 price tag), but again leadership and coaching is that problem there again.
Back to Highline though...If you were to focus recruiting efforts on the schools within that radius, in my opinion there is a greater return on your investment. Kids are closer to home, you start making connections and building pipelines, more local people will show up to dual meets (another topic), etc. Then! Once, kids start making the podium more consistently, bringing home team trophies, and getting kids to the next level, is when you can start expanding the horizon and different areas to recruit. Going to Fargo, Virginia Beach, and other top level tournaments, but the beautiful thing is that being successful is the best form of advertisement. Not to mention the fact that there are only about 40 junior college programs that have wrestling, it’s an easy sell to come and wrestle for your program if they have D1 aspirations but not the grades.
Recruiting is a year round effort, making calls, emails, letters, visits to campus, home visits, etc. Not handing out brochures the last day at the state tournament. Have you ever seen a Highline Coach at Freestyle or Greco State….how about Northwest Regionals….ok Gut Check? Or even any other tournament…? No? ...Me either. You get what you earn, and you can’t make chicken soup out of chicken shit….! For the amount of talent that is in the state, and that don't go on and even pursue wrestling in college, Highline should be year in and year out be competing for a National title.
Furthermore, but not creating and establishing pipelines for wrestlers to move on to four year universities is a detriment to that state and is killing us. The reason being, is that we are at a crossroads where we are having less and less wrestlers return with college wrestling experience. You may not think this is a big deal, but it is! Look at states that have college wrestling and tell me what you see? Wrestlers returning home within the state, or elsewhere, coaching high school athletes . Meaning that they are continually evolving...while we are stuck on the past, what if’s and should of, would have, and could have. It”s time we expect and demand better….it’s time we start getting results.
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