In keeping with the university’s emphasis on students applying their skills to real-world settings, the WPI Wrestling team will get a chance this weekend to further both their athletic and career-minded achievements when the campus hosts the annual Quad Meet at the Sports and Recreation Center.
More than a standard competitive event, the afternoon will double as a mentoring session for the athletes.
“The wrestling department here on campus is known as the WPI Wrestling Family,” says Coach Steve Hall. “It’s a special thing not all departments have, that consists of a strong alumni involvement and presence that is visible and active.”
“You are carrying an academic load, like everyone else on campus, but you’re doing something not everyone can do, which is excel on an athletic level.” – Wrestling coach Steve Hall.
On Saturday, that “family” will consist of not only the active wrestlers and coaching staff, but also returning alumni who will provide invaluable career mentoring to those on the very same path they were not long ago.
“We have three heavy hitters coming in,” Hall says. “Tom Kilkenny ’82, now a divisional VP at IBM; Steve Graveline ’86, a program manager at BAE; and Brian Chu ’94, executive VP at Bain Capital.”
Before that, the WPI Wrestling team will compete against three regional teams; among them longtime rival, the United States Coast Guard Academy.
“When I arrived at WPI in 1972, WPI had never beaten Coast Guard in wrestling,” says Phil Grebinar, who coached the team until his retirement in 2005. “As our program elevated to their success level, the intensity of our meets increased. We were challenging each other for the top spot in New England.”
Both Grebinar and Hall point to the similarities in the two schools’ wrestling departments as reasons for the longevity and significance of the rivalry. From the small, dimly lit arenas to the fervor of the fans to the knowledge that each team member had a high academic load to carry, the neck-and-neck quality of their meets provided fuel for constant growth and achievement.
“After we caught up to their level, we moved beyond and had a long run of dominating them,” Grebinar continues. “So much that the overall record between the two teams favored WPI.”
Saturday’s event will be a super quad meet, with a round robin of matches throughout the day that will see WPI going against Plymouth State and Oneonta in the early afternoon before meeting Coast Guard to conclude the day’s matches.
Current head coach and alum Hall (Class of ’87), says the mutual respect and legacy of bringing out the best in each other is what the spirit of athletics is all about. Both coaches emphasize the distinct disciplines inherent in the sport itself: training, lifting, diet, maintaining weight class, as well as the standard of excellence WPI expects on an academic level. All of these qualities are well understood by the visiting mentors, all WPI grads, and former members of the WPI Wrestling Family, themselves.
“Being a college athlete is special by itself,” Hall states. “You are carrying an academic load, like everyone else on campus, but you’re doing something not everyone can do, which is excel on an athletic level.”
But more important than wins and losses is the promise of accomplishing their goals after their time at WPI is through. The mentoring programs organized by Hall will teach team members what types of career building skills they should focus on and how to do so.
“What I stress with the guys is making sure we give our best effort every time we step onto the mat,” he says. “That’s short term. Long term, we focus on getting better every week, every year, and making sure they can do whatever they want when they leave here. Will they be able to go off and have the lives and careers they want, and have the tools to allow those doors to open for them? In the end, that’s what it’s all about.”
The quad meet will kick off Saturday, Jan. 31, at noon with WPI facing Plymouth State. More information on the event can be found at http://athletics.wpi.edu/sports/wrest/index