Junior Steve Schneider knows how challenging Division I wrestling can be. He knows how demanding it is to prepare for a match at the highest level. At the same time, he tries not to think about it too much.
When Schneider fell in the first round of the NCAA Championships last season, he made the call to rethink his training approach. After realizing that his mental preparations were leaving him at a disadvantage, he came to a counterintuitive conclusion — to just think about it less. This year, in the 184-pound weight class, Schneider has embraced his new method of competing, and it’s paid off. He compiled a 32-8 record and will carry the No. 15 seed when he takes the floor at the NCAAs on Thursday.
“It’s kind of draining if you think about your matches way too far in advance,” Schneider said. “It’s really mentally, physically and emotionally draining. I’ve learned to think less until you smack hands on the mat, and then just turn into an animal for seven minutes.”
All season long, Schneider has worked on his technique. Despite the shift in his mental approach, the commitment to training that allowed him to reach the national level has remained the same. For Schneider, that includes early-morning workouts followed by afternoon bouts with his teammates during practice.
“I bet if you ask any Division I wrestler, they will never say that this sport is easy,” Schneider said. “That’s something that I realized when I came to college. Being confident is a huge factor, but what I’ve learned most from being at this tournament last year is that you have to think and feel less. You’ve got to have a sort of carefree attitude, while still putting in your best effort.”
Schneider qualified for this year’s NCAA Championships after placing fourth at 184 the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA) Championships. He believes that his experience at the same meet last season has left him better prepared for when he takes the mat this weekend. He’ll be joined at the NCAA Championships by redshirt senior Dylan Caruana, wrestling in the 141-pound weight class.
“My first time here, last year, it was at Madison Square Garden, and I definitely felt the nerves,” Schneider said. “It’s good to have that out of the way already and to have match experience at this incredible tournament. There has been nervous energy, but it’s not as present this time around. Mentally, I’m definitely more prepared this time around, for sure.”
This year, Schneider has been faced with tough matchups in EIWA play. The conference, one of the best in the country, is sending seven wrestlers to compete at 184 in the NCAA Championships — including Cornell senior Gabe Dean, the reigning national champion of the weight class. Schneider believes that Binghamton’s conference schedule will give him an advantage as he competes on the national stage.
“When you have an easy schedule, it’s really not preparing you for the big-time matches,” Schneider said. “When you’re in a tough conference — like the EIWA or the Big 10, which are the top two — and you’re battling these guys every weekend, it boosts your confidence when you win. That’s how you’re going to win in March; you need small successes along the way against tough opponents to win in the highest emotional matches.”
Schneider will face American senior James Grimes in the first round of the NCAA Championships. He defeated Grimes in a 4-1 decision at a dual meet against American in February. The match is set for Thursday morning from the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Missouri.