For many freshmen athletes, the transition to the collegiate level is one that is brutally difficult, as the new guys are faced with competition that is just as talented and just as skilled as them for the first time in their lives.
In collegiate wrestling, this transition may be even bigger, as freshmen may be faced with competitors that have a high understanding of how to exploit an opponents’ weakness and limit the power of their strengths.
For former West Virginia wrestler Brandon Rader, however, the learning curve of his true freshman season was none too steep, as he became the only true freshman and the fourth West Virginia native in program history to earn All-American honors.
During the Parkersburg, W.Va., native’s inaugural season in 2005-06, Rader compiled a total of 30 wins, which still stands as the second most by a freshman in WVU history, to just six losses on his way to a placement of sixth in the 141-pound weight class at the 2006 NCAA Championships as well as his first of two Eastern Wrestling League crowns.
“Typically, if you have a freshman that comes in and wins a majority of his matches in the first part of the season, and then, struggles during the second half of the season, you know you are going to have a good one in the future,” said Coach Craig Turnbull. “But with Brandon, it was different. He started off strong and was able to continue that success. There is a lot that goes into what makes a true freshman successful, such as a good background, good experiences and good instruction, but what made Brandon different was his intensity. From the beginning to the end of the match, he was able to push his opponent to a point that they didn’t want to be at.”
Rader would go on to back up his true freshman year with another solid campaign in his sophomore season, as he posted a 24-4 overall record, won his second EWL title and placed sixth at the NCAA Championships for a second time in his career.
Following his highly successful freshman and sophomore seasons, however, Rader’s career, which had the potential of a future national championship, was derailed by injuries to his knee and shoulder.
Despite the injuries, Rader proved that he was a name that belonged in Mountaineer lore, as he qualified for the NCAA Championships for a third and final time along with a finishing his career with a total of 70 wins. In addition, Rader's two-time All-American status puts him in elite company, as he is one of six WVU wrestlers to earn multiple All-America honors.Follow WVU Wrestling on Twitter: @CoachGJonesLike the WVU Wrestling Page on Facebook: facebook.com/WVUWrestling