What's the Recruiting Experience Like? A State Champion's Perspective (Part 2)

 
 

Last Monday was July 1, the first day that college coaches can contact members of the Class of 2014. What is it like for high schoolers and their families during the recruiting process?  We asked Harvard-bound Tyler Grimaldi and his father Frank to share their experiences.  

Last week, we posted Part 1 of this article. To read about the beginning of the recruiting process, the craziness of July 1 and the phone and mail contact from schools all over the country, see Part 1 of this article.

The second part of the story begins below:

Narrowing Down the Field

Tyler Grimaldi: As important as wrestling is, school comes first.  Always has. Based on academics, I started to narrow the list down.

Frank Grimaldi: When we saw a lot of Ivies were interested, we put others on the backburner.  All along, we’ve talked about how wrestling is a means to an end. Tyler loves to wrestle; he lives for wrestling. But he knows that success on the mat will help him in life.  He had a very high average; high test scores. But that by itself doesn’t get you into some of the best schools.  We decided that it was time to take some unofficial visits.

So in the summer, it was off to a number of campuses across the Northeast to get a closer look – including Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, Hofstra, Penn and Princeton.  He walked around the schools, met the coaches and teams and tried to get a feel for the environment at each place.

Tyler Grimaldi: I didn’t know anything about the college experience or being a college wrestler. I went in with an open mind.  It was such a new world for me. I was looking for a place to grow as an athlete, a student and a person.  I wanted to find the place that would mold me into the person I want to be.

His trip to Harvard was eye opening.  Ironically, Tyler said the Crimson staff didn’t contact him early in the recruiting period, as he said head coach Jay Weiss first reached out in August.

Frank Grimaldi: On the trip to Harvard, we sat down with Coach Weiss and Coaches [JP] O’Connor and [Muzaffar] Abdurakhmanov. We talked for three hours, but not one second was about wrestling.  Before we went on the tour, he reinforced that he doesn’t do negative recruiting; doesn’t talk about other programs.

Grimaldi, Photo by BV

The visits went in both directions, as Grimaldi not only made trips to colleges, but several coaches traveled to his home in Dix Hills.  Frank Grimaldi talked about how great it was to “have these amazing coaches in my kitchen for three or four hours.”

Frank Grimaldi: The unofficial visits absolutely helped narrow it down.  He set up five official visits.  He went to Harvard first and loved it.  Then he went to Princeton next and loved it.  After that, he said he didn’t want to go on any other visits because he wanted to go to one of those places.

Decision Time

Frank Grimaldi: With it down to Harvard and Princeton, I told him I couldn’t give him a hint of what to do.  I didn’t want to push him one way or another and have him regret the decision.  The decision was all his. He couldn’t lose either way. His guidance counselor felt the same way. She asked him, ‘If you could never wrestle another day in your life, where would you rather go to school?’ Three hours later, he told me his decision was made.

Tyler Grimaldi: When I was in sixth grade, I told my parents I wanted to go to Harvard.  Originally, I didn’t think they were interested in me.  But after Fargo [Grimaldi took sixth at 160 in Freestyle], we talked and really hit it off. I still was torn between Harvard and Princeton, though. My relationship with coach Weiss was the deciding factor. I saw him as a second father figure.  He stays in touch with all the people he’s coached and he develops us as wrestlers and people. I had a different kind of connection with Coach Weiss. I feel like he knows what’s best for me.

A week or two after making his choice, Grimaldi got a “likely letter” from Harvard, indicating that his chances of being admitted were high.  In October, he received a call that he had been accepted on what was “one of the coolest nights ever” according to Frank Grimaldi.

The Hardest Part – By Far

Having a final decision meant a lot of good things for Grimaldi and his family.  Contacting all the other coaches who had been recruiting him was not one of them.

Tyler Grimaldi: That was the worst part of the whole process; by far the worst.  It was horrible.  All of those coaches went out of their way for me, came to my house, took a lot of time with me. I felt really bad.  But you know what? Most of the coaches were very cool about it.  They wished me the best and told me the door was always open if something changed.

Any Advice?

Frank Grimaldi:  My advice would be to talk to everybody you can.  Take good notes and understand that it is a business.  You have to understand that you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread when you talk to some coaches, but they’re saying the same things to other people.  They have a numbers game – they have a list of wrestlers they really want, a list that they’ll settle for and a list they’ll take if they have to in order to fill numbers.  You have to figure out where you are in the pecking order.  I was kind of shocked at the response of one of the coaches when Tyler told him his decision. It’s a business, but when it’s the business of your son, you take it personally.  At the end of the day, it’s a great process, a great ride.  There were so many great people and great opportunities that Tyler couldn’t have made a bad decision.

Tyler Grimaldi: One thing I learned is that there’s no opportunity that’s too small.  Keep all of your doors open and don’t close off anything right away. Hear everyone out and listen carefully because you might find a gem in a program you never imagined.

Also, enjoy the opportunities you get from the process.  I loved taking the visits and seeing the schools.  It was amazing to learn more about what it takes to compete on the mat and in the classroom at a high level.  I got to tour parts of the country and see places I’ve never seen.  You’re made to feel really important and that’s a lot of fun. It’s a great experience.

The Road Ahead

Now, the new challenges commence. As Frank Grimaldi said, “All [Tyler] has so far is admission to Harvard, and while that’s great, he knows he’s not guaranteed anything from here.”

Tyler expects to begin as a 157-pounder but may see 165 down the road.  In the classroom, he will likely concentrate in biology or psychology as he hopes to attend medical school in the future.   He experienced quite a bit in past year and will no doubt experience a whole lot more.

“From July through October, it was a whirlwind of calls, mail, visits and discussions,” Frank Grimaldi said. “It was quite a ride. In the end, I’m the happiest person in the world with the way it worked out.”

A Wrestler's Perspective: Tyler Grimaldi's "Whirlwind" Journey through the Recruiting Process (Part 1)

 
 
What is it like to be a top wrestler entering his final year of high school?  The recruiting process is “out of a movie” and a “whirlwind”, according to Harvard-bound Tyler Grimaldi, a 2013 state champion from Half Hollow Hills West High School, and his father Frank.  With July 1 marking the beginning of the official recruiting period for the Class of 2014, we asked the Grimaldis to share some insights on what they experienced as Tyler made his college choice.  

This is part 1 of a two-part article.

 The Beginning

The story of the recruitment of Tyler Grimaldi goes back to the summer of 2011, when he competed at the Junior Freestyle National championships in Fargo, North Dakota between his sophomore and junior years.

Grimaldi, Photo by BV

Frank Grimaldi: At Fargo, Tyler was coached by Columbia’s Carl Fronhofer. Tyler decided to take an unofficial visit to Columbia during his junior year and after he finished second in the state that year [2012], Coach Fronhofer talked to [Hills West coach Mike] Patrovich with a lot of interest. I was ecstatic; I thought it was the greatest thing in the world.  I thought Columbia would be a great place for Tyler.  I sat down with a friend and Tyler’s coaches and they were excited too.  They told me it was awesome; amazing.  But they also told me that we should go through the process fully.  They said, ‘Just wait until July. A lot more will show interest then.’”

Grimaldi continued to bolster his resume, earning All-America honors at the NHSCA Junior Nationals in Virginia Beach where he took fourth at 160 pounds in April (2012).  College coaches definitely took notice.

Frank Grimaldi: In Virginia Beach, it was the quarterfinal round and Tyler was about to wrestle. One of Tyler’s buddies was close to the mat and he was telling me that he almost got knocked over by someone trying to get to the match.  It was really cool – because I saw who it was.  It was [an Ivy league assistant coach], who had run almost across the entire convention center to watch Tyler.  It was really cool to watch.”

 July 1, 2012

Many know that July 1 is the big day when the first official calls and visits can occur.  But the Grimaldis admitted that what happened during that 24 hours was beyond their imagination.

Tyler Grimaldi: It was totally different than I expected. I expected a couple of calls.  What happened was straight out of a movie.  You wake up and your phone doesn’t stop ringing. Some were from schools I e-mailed with before [Grimaldi said he e-mailed coaches as a junior to introduce himself to programs he might be interested in], but some were from schools and coaches I never even heard of or schools I had no idea had any interest in me.  I really felt like I was in a movie.

Frank Grimaldi:  It was a Sunday and it started at about 9:30 a.m. By the end of the night, Tyler had received more than 25 phone calls.  It continued on Monday.  It was a dream come true. I couldn’t imagine it. It was everything from DI powers to D3 schools to Junior Colleges. It got really, really crazy.  Tyler talked to everyone and listened to what they had to say. We would sit down after each call and write down what the coach said, maybe do some research on the school.

The phone interactions continued throughout the summer.  NCAA rules stipulate that schools can only call once every seven days and for the most part, that’s exactly what they did.

 And It Continues . . .

Tyler Grimaldi: Most coaches would call every week on the dot – same exact time. I wasn’t used to it – all these people calling and pulling in different directions.  They wanted to know what my thought process was and where I stood. It became stressful at times.

Frank Grimaldi: The first calls came on that first Sunday.  Some continued to call on Sunday and some switched to another day, but it was pretty much every seven days throughout the summer.

It wasn’t just calls, however.  The postal service saw a big increase of activity at the Grimaldi house as well.

Frank Grimaldi: The mailbox filled up almost every day and so did the school mailbox.  It was like Christmas morning, every morning.

Tyler Grimaldi: There was a lot of mail, and to be honest, I read every single recruiting letter. It made me feel really good to have all those schools gunning for me. A lot of it was pretty basic, asking me to fill out questionnaires or information on the school.  Some was more personal.  Cornell’s stood out – they had some funny letters and some hand written, personal ones specific to me.

Frank Grimaldi estimated that around 75 programs contacted his son during the process, with at least 40 of them doing so by phone.

Tyler Grimaldi: It was pretty overwhelming at first. The big thing is that we didn’t close off anything early on.  I wanted to hear what all the options were.

Frank Grimaldi: There were many different opportunities. One school said with the classes he was taking in high school, he could come in as a sophomore [academically] and wrestle four years and get a redshirt year.  That way, he’d graduate in three years and have two years of grad school or med school paid for.  Everybody was offering different things – there were different packages and scholarships. Some of that was incredibly tempting.  In the end, I told Tyler that he needed to figure out what college he wanted to go to; what was right for him, and we’d figure out the next steps from there.

One of those key next steps was narrowing down the field to a handful of schools.  How that occurred and the rest of Tyler Grimaldi’s recruiting story is at Link to Part 2 of the article.