Winter 2019 McKendree Magazine

McKendree Women's Wrestling: An Inside Look

McKendree women’s wrestlingby Grant Riggs ’19

In his six years as the McKendree women’s wrestling head coach, Sam Schmitz has helped shape the program into a national contender—one that is making a name internationally, as well. In January, the team won its first National Wrestling Coaches Association championship by defeating King University 24-17 in the championship match of the National Duals. Internationally, junior Alex Glaude, and sophomores Kori Bullock and Brenda Reyna, all qualified for world championship events in Slovakia and Romania in 2018. Alex and Kori became the first female Americans to medal at the Senior U23 World Championships, both receiving bronze on Nov. 16 in Romania. Brenda joined junior Andrea Sennett and first-year Felicity Taylor in Brazil to compete in the Junior Pan American Championships.

“They’re hardworking,” said Sam, the head coach since the program formed in 2013. “There’s no secret to success in wrestling. It takes hours and hours of beating on your craft. They are continually learning, growing and maturing in the sport, fighting through adversity, battling through challenges and understanding that there’s not a secret to getting your hand raised.

“They work very, VERY hard to reach that international level. We definitely try to attract kids that want that type of success. We want students who will be dedicated to their schoolwork and their craft. National championships and conference championships are going to happen if you aim far above them.”

Sam maintains positive relationships with his athletes because he cares about them on a personal level before guiding them on the mat. “We aren’t the best, we never claim to be, but we will be great members of society,” he said. “If we can help them create an excellent standard of living, it will allow them to succeed everywhere in life.”

Alex, a redshirt junior in her fourth year with the team, pointed out that specific characteristic, which influenced her to join his program. “One of the things that made me feel most comfortable with Coach Sam before deciding to come to McKendree was the fact that he cared more about who I was as a person rather than how skilled I was at wrestling or how many matches I had won,” Alex said. “This program is meant to not just create stellar athletes, but also individuals who will make the world a better place once they step outside of that wrestling room.”

Andrea, who along with Brenda won an individual silver medal and helped lead the U.S. Junior Pan American team to a first-place team finish in August, agreed. “Coming in my freshman year, I was scared and didn’t really know what being on an all-girls team would feel like,” she said. “The first thing [Sam] said he wanted our team to be that year was a family. He even put it on the back of our sweatshirts so that we wouldn’t forget it. I really feel like that’s what we have become.”

Since the team has become accustomed to competing at the highest level, training for those international meets has become second nature. “Wrestling is wrestling,” said Felicity, a first-year who qualified for the Junior Pan American team after winning first-place at 112 lbs. at the Junior Women’s Freestyle National Championships in July. “The difference between the world stage and collegiate events is all mental.”

To reach the type of success they desire at all levels, Sam encourages them to embrace the process of getting better. “They continue to fall in love with the preparation, the daily routine to separate themselves from the rest. That’s what causes our McKendree women’s wrestlers to see success. It’s a blessing to get to watch them do what they do.”