Welcome to interview #123 with NAIA college coach, Ben Rosen! Ben is the assistant men’s wrestling coach at Campbellsville University. Coach Ben has worked with wrestlers on the high school level as well as at Doane University as a graduate assistant coach. He was also a college wrestler himself, winning 92 matches during his career at Cornell College. If you want to learn more about Coach Ben Rosen and the Campbellsville Tigers you can go here.
This is an amazing interview, packed full of practical tips and advice that you don’t want to miss. Coach Ben answers lots of questions about what college coaches really want to see and hear from high school athletes. Many thanks to Coach Ben for providing thoughtful and helpful answers to all these questions!
Getting Started With the Recruiting Process
When should athletes start the recruiting process?
Athletes should start the recruiting process when they start getting looks from coaches. If you’re
a sophomore or junior when a college coach calls you, start then. But if coaches don’t reach out,
focus on developing before you start becoming an active participant in the recruiting process. If
not contacted before late summer/early fall of your senior year, go ahead and do some legwork
yourself. That is when College coaches are looking to your graduating class. You don’t want to be too
early as normally coaches are not particularly interested in juniors.
What do you want to see in a wrestling highlight video?
I don’t like highlight videos. Wrestling is a lot about context. I know any wrestler can look
incredible in 5-second clips against a mediocre opponent. I want to see more than that. I want to
see an entire match. I want to see the in-between moments after you get taken down to see
your body language. All those things matter. To me, the best would be to send me every match from a single tournament. That way I can see
how you deal with multiple levels of opponents and I can watch the difficulty progress and see how your wrestling changes.
Just don’t be afraid to show your college coaches how you wrestle, to show them everything. It will come out eventually and being straight forward with your recruiter is the best way to create a bond with someone who could be your coach.
Contacting College Coaches
How often should an athlete contact college coaches?
Once you have started talking to a coach, contact that coach when there is a new piece of
information to be spoken of. That could be a new tournament result, an update in the
admissions process, or a new video to send. Use those new things as a reason to send a
message. I would just avoid sending a message just to send one.
When an athlete initially contacts a program, who they should the send/direct their
emails and calls to? The head coach, or an assistant?
I would look to the program’s website and see if any of the members of the staff are labeled as a
“recruiting coordinator” or something of that nature. If there is one then I would message them.
That coach should respond quickly or he may dole you out to another more appropriate coach.
If there is no recruiting coordinator I would look for the coach that has something in common
with you. The best thing would be if they are from your state. That coach will have a better feel
for your talent level and generally have more interest in talking with you. If there is no one from
your state or your region, look for the coach who is of similar size to you. College coaches, in general,
enjoy recruiting the kids they will be hands-on with the most which are usually the athlete that is
What to do in These Real Life Situations
If a student makes bad grades one semester, should they send them to college coaches
as-is or should they include an explanation?
Send them and explain. Don’t withhold information like that from someone who could be your
coach. It sets a bad precedent. Just make sure when you explain it that you don’t blame your
teachers or have weak excuses. Be honest about why you are struggling whether it be a lack of
study habits, lack of interest, or something else. Express that you will need help going forward.
College coaches will appreciate the honesty and it will better equip them to accommodate you when
you get on campus.
If you are primarily being recruited by D2/D3/NAIA coaches, is it a good idea to attend a
camp with D1 coaches in attendance?
Go to camps to get better at wrestling primarily, the recruiting aspect is a bonus. Even still, my
answer is to go to camps at a smaller school for multiple reasons.
Reason one is just a simple numbers game. With smaller schools come smaller camps which
means more attention from coaches. Smaller school camps have great coaches who can teach
you so much as any but it’s easier to get under their wing. D1 camps are generally larger and
the kids are divided up and coached by athletes which isn’t as ideal for learning.
Reason two is simply that the camps are generally cheaper.
Lastly, reason three is about recruiting. If you are going to end up going D2/D3/NAIA it is good
to get face to face contact with coaches who would recruit you. I know as an NAIA coach that
kids who come to our camps have a leg up in recruiting, especially if they impress us.
Practical Questions About the Recruiting Process
Is it valuable to research current college rosters for programs you are interested in?
It can be helpful but rosters can also be very deceptive. Rosters are often out of date so some
stud you see could, for all you know, be off the team. Also, rosters don’t show how athletes are
doing in the room- they just show accolades. Just because there are 3 kids in your weight class
with impressive accolades doesn’t mean that that place is not great for you.
In my opinion, it would be a better use of your time to look up results if you are worried about
getting stuck behind several good wrestlers. Learn to use trackwrestling. All college results are
inputted in there so use the “browse” section and check out how the kids on the team are doing.
You may find that a HS stud you were worried about sitting behind for a few years isn’t even
Should students take both the ACT and SAT, or will just one be enough? Which one is
It doesn’t matter. I would just pick the regional one that your school prepares you for. Any
college can translate it appropriately.
What About Recruited Walk-Ons
How does a coach view a recruited walk on? Is the player not good enough for a
scholarship but valuable as practice for the scholarship players?
A walk-on is a member of the team. I don’t look at them any differently. Everyone has the same
opportunities when they practice and compete. I don’t know of any room that sorts their athletes
by scholarship amount. With that being said, scholarships are offered based on the appropriate
skill level. We aren’t right 100% of the time but if you aren’t getting any money, it’s likely your
skill level isn’t quite there yet. That’s okay though, work and get better every day and you can
earn that scholarship.
A do have a tip for the walk-on, try to be a great practice partner. Be someone the best guy in
the room wants to work with. If you learn to be a smooth driller but give a good feel when
sparring, you can become the go-to workout partner to the top dog in the room. By working with
the best every day, you will get better quickly.
With current climate are schools recruiting overseas applicants, also given questionable
Honestly, wrestling doesn’t do much international recruiting. Just communicate with coaches
and they will give you straight answers. You aren’t likely to visit regardless of Covid-19 but at
least teams will be more prepared for virtual visits.
Can You Compete in Two Sports in College
Is it realistic to compete in two sports in college?
It depends on the sports. But I generally tell kids that you can be great at one or good at two.
College sports are extremely demanding and asking your body and mind to focus on two along
with academics and the like is usually a bad idea. With that said, some kids are special and can
As a wrestling coach, I get a lot of kids who want to play football then wrestle right after. This is
almost always a bad idea. Mostly because these are two extremely physical sports that overlap
so heavily. One football or wrestling season alone is a lot for a body to handle but combining
them is a one-way path to injury. Besides just workload, you won’t join the wrestling team after
football till about halfway in. And you’re not in wrestling shape. It’s not a great situation. Also,
scholarships get confusing when each coach is feeling like he only gets half an athlete.
Spring sports are much more reasonable as that season of training is a lot lighter and less
wrestling specific than the fall. This along with the fact that spring sports are generally lower
contact. I’d much rather see my athlete play baseball in the spring and wrestle than play football
in the fall and try to wrestle.
Best Advice for High School Athletes
What is the magic “it” or “wow” factor that makes some recruits stand out above others?
This is a great question. Look, it is great to sign 4x state champions but the reality is that it isn’t
always well correlated with success. Do you know what is correlated with success? A great
learning and growth mindset. I want to talk to a kid’s high school coach and hear that the athlete
is a sponge. That he loves coming to practice and learning all that he can. That he has no ego
when he is being taught and works his tail off every single day. That consistency and beginner’s
mindset when it comes to practice is the juice when it comes to having success not just in
wrestling but in life. Those are the athletes that are both pleasures to have in your room from a
culture standpoint as well. They have the best chance to succeed in the long term. I’ll take a
decent kid who wants to be in the room every day- who wants to learn every day over a super
stud who thinks he knows more than his coaches any day.
If you could tell athletes one thing about the recruiting process or competing in college,
what would it be?
Remember that you are the one in control of your fate. Even if the recruiting process doesn’t go
your way and you don’t end up at your perfect school, you can still succeed. When you go
compete, your school is just the singlet on your body- it isn’t the one competing. Don’t let your
place determine your result. Your work and what is in control will determine your success-