Ryan Schott could have learned to be a blackjack dealer or tested his hitchhiking thumb on the open road.
He had to consider his options to get home from a wrestling trip to Las Vegas his freshman year, losing by fall in two exhibition matches and experiencing a direct talk with Coe Coach John Oostendorp.
“I thought he was going to leave me out there,” Schott said with a laugh. “I was nervous. I thought I wasn’t going to get a ride home.
“I can’t thank Coach O enough for getting on me that day. It was probably the lowest part of my career. I didn’t think I was going to get a flight home that day. I wasn’t very good.”
Schott took the words to heart and immediately went to work. His effort produced huge gains in the final two months of that season and continued the last two years. The 184-pounder junior still is reaping the rewards, earning the fifth seed Friday and Saturday at the National Wrestling Coaches Association Division III Wrestling Championships at Xtream Arena in Coralville. Competition begins Friday at 11 a.m.
He is one of 10 Kohawks in the field that is replacing the canceled NCAA D-III Championships.
“It’s going to be great,” said Schott, a former Iowa City Regina prep. “It’s very exciting. Finally getting the opportunity to go out against the best people and compete is going to be fun. The whole team is ready. It’s going to be a blast.”
Oostendorp recalled the discussion after those matches at the Desert Duals. He didn’t sugarcoat his message. Schott didn’t wallow in self-pity. He responded with maturity, devoting himself to improvement. Oostendorp said Schott has made himself a good wrestler through hard work and discipline and the results have been rewarding to see as a coach.
“I was matter-of-fact about how you need to compete, if you want to wear our singlet,” Oostendorp said. “He needed that talk. To see someone buy in and work that hard, that’s why wrestling can be such a neat sport. If you’re willing to work through the tough times, you can get to the good times.”
Schott also credited former Coe All-American Jake Voss, who became a mentor and practice partner that season. They began to train together in the morning. Schott also took advantage of opportunities to wrestle in the offseason, traveling to freestyle competition in Akron, Ohio. He went from getting pinned in exhibition matches his first year to cracking the regular-season 174 national rankings as a sophomore.
“He grew physically, too,” Oostendorp said. “He’s athletic but he made himself a man in the weight room. No one puts in as much time as he does in the weight room and the wrestling room.
“You started seeing glimpses of it later in his freshman year. A big part was his commitment in the offseason, changing who he was as a competitor.”
Last season ended prematurely when the pandemic wiped out the national tournament the eve of the event. Schott didn’t let it disrupt his progress. He did everything he could during the spring and summer, bumping up a weight class. He is ranked seventh nationally.
“Obviously, last year, we got cut short but there were still gains to be made,” Schott said. “I hit the weight room hard that offseason. I kind of beefed up a little bit and went up to 184. I feel great about it.”
Schott said his biggest improvement is in the neutral position. He owns confidence that he can take down anyone, developing a better high-crotch, knee pull and snap down to expand his attacks. Oostendorp said he has witnessed Schott’s ability in the practice room, creating optimism for this weekend.
“I think he’s going to wrestle really well,” Oostendorp said. “I’ve wrestled with him lately and he’s done some things I haven’t felt many people do in the room. He’s a good athlete. He’s explosive. His weight training shows up in his wrestling.”
The tournament consists of wrestlers from schools that sponsored a program this season. They had to be eligible on the team roster and entered in the national weight management system. Participating schools could enter one wrestler per weight.
American Rivers Conference schools, including national power Wartburg, Luther, Loras, Central and Buena Vista will be represented. Cornell and Iowa Wesleyan are among the schools with participants.
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