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.
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.
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.
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.”