It is a popular belief that college wrestling is tougher than high school wrestling. We asked a few dozen first year college wrestlers from Nebraska to tell us why. They gave us their feedback on the following 2 questions:

1. Describe your first semester of college wrestling in 3 words.
2. Talk about the main differences between high school and college wrestling.


Northern Colorado University

Billy Higgins (Skutt Catholic High School)
1.) A roller coaster. Mainly on the sense that this level of wrestling is so much intense in every aspect. As well as adjusting to the new social life and practice regimen.

2.) I believe the biggest difference is effort. Everything you do in college wrestling takes so more effort. There’s no easy points in college wrestling. In tournaments the riding time point is crucial and sometimes easy to forget about. Practices are just so much more intense and there isn’t a word being said for 120 minutes.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Jordan Kelber (Valentine High School)
1.) Tough, busy, fun

2.) College practices are much harder because everyone in the room is a stud. so there isn’t any easy drill or match. Opens are much more relaxed than high school tournaments when it comes to crazy moms and people yelling, but the level of competition soars above high school tournaments. You now have to be ready to strap it on every round instead of maybe having a tough finals match only.


University of Mary

Trevor Fauver (Gretna High School)
1.) Way more physical

2.) I would say the the biggest difference is every single second you are on the mat, you are fighting and there is not rest. Practices are way more intense because everyone there is there with a purpose to get better and everyone is a state champ. So practice partners can be better than any wrestler you wrestled in high school. That goes with tournaments also. Everyone is good that you wrestle and even against the not so good wrestlers, you have to fight hard and nothing is given at all. Tourneys in college are 1000x tougher because its like wrestling a state finals match 4-6 times in 8 hours. You will be sore the next day which is another big thing in college. You have to be able to recover quick or adapt to injuries.

Lance Jarrett (Gretna High School)
1.) Eye opening physicality

2.) Conditioning in college practices is tough. The college open tournaments have riding time, and wrestling on the mat is tougher.

Northern State University

Caden Moore (O’Neill High School)
1.) Commitment, fun, rewarding.

2.) The one major thing is that you’re always sharpening your craft. In a high school atmosphere you’re always trying to grasp and learn new techniques, while college wrestling is going back to your bread and butter and making everything clean from the start. The one thing I enjoy about college wrestling practice, is the openness to getting better in your areas of wrestling and fine tuning all the the little things that are needed. Also having others in the room with the same passion as you, can only help you as a team and competitors push each other to their top levels of wrestling.

Open tournaments are a lot different than high school because it’s about getting the best competition that you can get, and every person you wrestle is a worthy opponent who is trying to be the best just like you. That’s the part of college wrestling that I will always appreciate the most.

Caleb Lefferdink (Syracuse)
1.) Fun, intense and commitment.

2.) The main difference to me is the practice partners in college. In high school, I’ve always had one guy in the room that could push me, but in college it doesn’t matter who I go with, I’m going to get a good workout in. Opens are better than high school meets to me, because you see a lot of different competition and for the most part they go a lot faster than high school meets so you have to be ready to go.

University of Nebraska-Kearney

Teontae Wilson (Kearney High School)
1.) Very eye opening.

2.) Practices are focused a lot more on the fine little details. It’s not as much as showing 10 different moves, it’s a lot more of showing 10 variations to 1 move and focusing on the little stuff it takes to do it correctly. Open tournaments aren’t too much different then high school tournaments. The main differences are you aren’t going to get easy matches up until the quarter-finals or semi-finals. You’ll most likely have tough opponents from your very first match until the end of the tournament. So you have to be ready to compete the whole 7 minutes from your very first match until your last match.

Tyler Cunningham (Gretna High School)
1.) Intense, enlightening, and commitment.
These words all come to me because it is something that has been shown everyday in our room. It’s is usually always intense with each workout partner. Everyday there is something new that can be learned or tweaked to be better. There is a plethora of techniques and no wrestler uses it the same way. And then there is commitment. That is one of the biggest differences I feel from high school to college, Everyone it the wrestling room is there because we all have a true passion for it. Everyone there is committed to getting better and becoming a national champion. Not only the wrestlers, but the coaches are truly invested into us as wrestlers to make us reach the best of our abilities.

2.) The difference between high school tournaments and college opens are the wrestlers. Their experience is just about as good as yours, so it is a true grind every match. And a lot more matches.

Lee Herrington (Kearney High School)
1.) Competitive, learning, enjoyable

2.) I feel like my high school practices were close to what we do now, but the technical points are much more focused on specific things. There is a difference in competition, in that most college opponents are a lot better than what you might see in your high school career if you travel to larger national tournaments.

Fort Hays State University

Cole Zebley (Millard West High School)
1.) It’s a grind.

2.) The big differences of the practices are the competition. You are constantly getting challenged, but it makes it a lot more fun. The college opens are a little more laid back compared to a high school tournament, but competition wise it’s crazy how there are absolutely no fish in these tournaments. I have absolutely no complaints about any of it though, I am loving it.

St. Cloud State University

Cameron Riggs (Maxwell High School)
1.) Learn, grind, perseverance.

2.) College Sports and High School sports are different, because college sports are a life style, as high school can be just for fun. Open tournaments are different from high school tournaments, because the competition is much better.


Nebraska Wesleyan University

Dominick Moser (Lincoln East High School)
1.) Perfecting your craft.

2.) The main differences from high school wrestling to college wrestling is the intensity every practice is going to challenge you mentally and physically.And open tournaments are tougher then high school tournaments all the matches are tough as hell where in high school every once and awhile you could have an easy match.

Cody Fielder (Fremont High School)
1.) More intense, faster.

2.) The main differences that I’ve noticed, is everything is done much faster and more intensely than before. The way you lift, practice, and compete is all more intense and fast paced than it was in high school.


Midland University

Derrell Zagurski (Winnebago High School)
1.) Exciting, tough, fun

2.) College wrestling is year-round, unlike high school where if you weren’t committed, then it ended in a few months. Practices are tougher with a lot more running. Tournaments run faster and are more organized, competition is harder and more fun. College wrestling all around is a new experience.

Dalton Mueller (North Bend Central High School)
1.) Lot more competitive

2.) Practices are different because we do more live wrestling than running. There is no 45 minute wait period between college matches, and you have to pay attention to your wrestling weight when you’re up.

Hailey Schiermeyer (Logan View High School)
1.) Challenging, commitment, fun

2.) In high school, I wrestled folkstyle against boys. In college, I wrestle freestyle against girls. That was one of the biggest challenges for me. In high school we just ran to warm up, but in college we have a set warm up such as basic shots, sprawls, down blocks, and takedowns, as well as top bottom. Also, in college, we have a required weight lifting of two times per week; whereas in high school, there wasn’t a weight lifting requirement, you just weight lifted on your own time. There is a weigh in difference between high school and college. In high school, we weighed in 2 hours prior to tournament start time and in college, we weigh in 1 hour prior to start time. Furthermore, during high school tournaments, breaks are given for lunch, but there aren’t any breaks during open college tournaments. In regards to competition, there are 3 periods of 2 minutes each in high school, but only 2 periods of 3 minutes each in college.

Concordia University

Stephen Duffy (Kenesaw High School)
1.) Intense, time-consuming, grinding

2.) The main difference I’d say, is the amount of time one is required to put in. Practices are much more intense overall, but for the most part I feel like we’re further perfecting the techniques we learned in high school. As for college open tournaments, it feels like much less is on the line, but everyone is good and you never have an easy match. The wrestlers are a lot more serious and are after the same thing you are.

Bryan McGahan (Hershey High School)
1.) Lots of learning.

2.) In college, every match you wrestle is a grind. Being able to get out on bottom, to not give up riding time are way more important situations. Being able to flow and scramble is a lot of college wrestling. College practice compared to high school is a lot more intensive. My high school practices were pretty long and strung out. But college practices are quick and intense, you never really have time to rest.

College opens are not much different than high school tournaments, everything is set up the same way. But in college you’re not wrestling for a medal or for team points, you are wrestling to better yourself and look at your abilities. Every match in college is a grind.

Mario Ybarra (Scottsbluff High School)
1.) 3 word sentence “Whole nother world” or different, intense, exciting.

2.) College practices are consistently intense, and there’s so much talent and different styles in the room. Just having the will to be in the wrestling room could get you through high school, but much more is required in college. As far as competitions go, there are just credentials everywhere in a bracket. There’s never an easy or warm-up match, it’s straight getting after it from your first to last match. And almost all matches go the full 7 minutes. Definitely not a lot of pins or techs like in high school.


Iowa Western Community College

Melvin Hernandez (David City High School)
1.) It’s a grind.

2.) Wrestling becomes a way of life, instead of something just after school and on the weekends. Practices are a grind because everyone that’s in there is working towards a common goal.

Noah Rutjens (Elkhorn Valley High School)
1.) Limitless, mindset, battle.

2.) For me the biggest difference between college and high school is conditioning. The college preseason and practices are intense and they prepare you for a full 7 min match. A difference in the open tournaments, is that you aren’t just wrestling local wrestlers, you compete with people from all over.

MA Yah II (Millard North High School)
1.) Grind every day.

2.) College practices are different from high school because at IWCC, we have 2-3 practices a day. Open tournaments are different from high school because you don’t know who you’re wrestling a lot more often than high school.

Dillon Stewart (Elkhorn Valley High School)
1.) It’s definitely different.

2.) In high school, you waited all day until 3:30pm to have practice. Having to experience 3 workouts a day in college has made me a much better wrestler than I’ve ever been.

In college open tournaments, we aren’t seeing the same guys we wrestled a week ago. Every match in college wrestling is tough and I think everyone knows that, because it’s just a change.

Darren Stewart (Elkhorn Valley High School)
1.) A lot harder!!

2.) Practice two times a day, and then lift weights at night. Practices are longer with and a lot more conditioning. The tournaments are harder for sure, you just don’t get those first round freshmen anymore. It’s a lot different than high school, you’ve got to be committed if you go into college wrestling! Work hard and you can accomplish anything!

Ethan Poppe (Crofton-Bloomfield)
1.) Grit, endurance, and dedication.
You can’t be a college wrestler without a little bit of grit inside of you. I use endurance because it’s a long semester and an even longer season and sometimes you get to a point where u just have to gut it out and endure the tough situations. I use dedication because this is a sport you can’t do halfway. If you want to be better than the guy you’re competing against, you have to be extremely dedicated to it.

2.) I’ve had to polish my technique and scrambling abilities, rather than rely solely on my athletic ability. In high school there were a lot of things I got away with because I was stronger and quicker than my opponents, but I’ve found that it doesn’t fly like that in college.

College practices are different because our coaches don’t spend a ton of time teaching technique and then drilling it. They let us live wrestle for most of the practice, and point out technical things while we go at it. Also we don’t do a ton of “conditioning” i.e. sprints etc. Our conditioning is the live wrestling so we learn while we condition.

With tournaments I haven’t found a ton of differences between high school and college. But the one thing i would say is that college tournaments come at you a little faster, but that might just be part of adjusting to college.

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