NCAA Wrestling is looking to have an exciting 2013-14 season. Many of last year’s national champions are returning for a shot at another title. These wrestlers include: Jessie Delgado (125), Logan Stieber (133), Kendric Maple (141), Derek St. John (157), Chris Perry (174), Ed Ruth (184), and Tony Nelson (285).
However, there is another returning national champion as well who hasn’t competed on the NCAA level in two years. Andrew Howe placed 2nd in the NCAA championships as a freshman, became a 2010 National Champion as a sophomore, and after being plagued by an injury, took 3rd as a junior. He then decided to take an Olympic redshirt for his senior season. He made it to the finals of the USA World Team Trials on the senior level and lost to the eventual Olympic Champion Jordan Burroughs. Wrestling on the senior level apparently took its toll on Howe’s body and instead of returning to the NCAA level of competition, he took a medical redshirt year. It’s been 4 years since he won a NCAA National title, and now in 2014, he is making a go for another one.
Andrew Howe is now 24 years old. In the past two years, he has been having a lot of success on the senior level. His senior-level career already holds a U. S. Open Title, and several overseas medals. Is it ethical to let him comeback and wrestle college kids? Some of his opponents will be 18 years old–6 years his junior.
He has already accomplished everything a little kid could dream of on the NCAA level and has been excelling in the level beyond that. There is now a new age group of kids trying to accomplish the same things he did, and it would be a shame if they had to lose their dream of becoming an NCAA National Champion because Andrew Howe wanted something to put on his resume!
I am not saying Andrew Howe is a bad person. I am actually a big fan of his and will be rooting for him in this upcoming season. However, I am not convinced that allowing him to wrestle on the college level is completely ethical. I think that the big question to ask here is: How ethical is redshirting? I completely understand medical redshirting, but I am not sure academic and Olympic redshirting should be allowed.
During a medical redshirt, a player is unable to compete or practice because of an injury. I think that it is only fair to give people who fall under this category another year of eligibility that would have otherwise been robbed from them. However, when a player is under an academic redshirt, they can still practice and can use all the time that they’re not competing to get better. This way, they will improve and will have a more productive 4 years of eligibility. During an Olympic redshirt year, athletes will be using the year to get better, and they will even be seeing top-level competition as well.
Johnny Manziel won the Heisman Trophy this past year as a redshirt freshman. In 2011, Johnny’s academic redshirt year, Texas A&M went 7-6. In 2012, Johnny’s redshirt freshman season, they went 11-2. It should not be considered ethical to redshirt a player of that caliber in order to develop them. Johnny Manziel is recorded as the first freshman to ever win the Heisman. Even though both Tim Tebow and Mark Ingram won the award as true sophomores, and Mark Ingram was even younger than Johnny when he won the award—Johnny will go down in history. And he now has the potential to win the Heisman 4 times.
The way I see it, the medical redshirt is the only one that is fair and keeps honesty in NCAA athletics. Four years of practice, four years of competition. Competing with people around your own age and really testing who is the best for their era. If you stick around longer than this, you are potentially robbing someone else of something that you should have no business being involved in.
Andrew Howe is an amazing competitor, but his time should be up in terms of collegiate competition. It should now be someone else’s time to shine. Winning a national championship is something that you can take with you the rest of your life.
It would be a waste if someone’s name is erased from the NCAA history books because of an unfair rule. I guess we can only pray for those true freshmen, who are about to face a competitor six years their senior.