When redshirt sophomore Frankie Garcia and senior Steve Schneider step onto the mat at the NCAA Wrestling Championships this weekend, up to 20,000 fans will be at the arena watching. For Garcia, this will be his first trip to the big dance since he began his career as a Bearcat. For Schneider, it will be his third and final appearance at the NCAA Tournament before he graduates in the spring.
Given that this is such a large event, it can be easy for a wrestler to get lost in the size of it all, but BU head coach Kyle Borshoff urged his wrestlers to focus only on the things they can control.
“We control the controllables,” Borshoff said. “Most of the things that are happening out there are things that we can’t change, and that’s stuff that we can’t be worried about.”
Garcia, as a first-timer at the tournament, is trying to view each match as just a normal dual.
“[I] see this tournament as nothing different from just wrestling dual meets, other matches,” Garcia said. “Instead of looking at the whole bracket, you just need to focus on the guy you’re gonna wrestle. Controlling the variables that are in front of you.”
The season that Garcia turned in thus far has been a vast improvement for him from his freshman year. Entering the current season with 12 wins, Garcia managed to nearly triple his career total by adding 23 victories this year. He also notched 12 victories in dual play alone, which earned him the position of third-best player on the team this season.
As a more seasoned veteran, Schneider has totaled over 100 wins throughout his decorated Binghamton career, far more than any other current Bearcat. The senior has acquired a record of 15-4 up to this point, and has only lost once in dual play this season.
“I’m really not treating this tournament any differently than I treat any dual meet or any other smaller-level tournament,” Schneider said. “I just have to be my best self and wrestle my best seven minutes.”
Schneider also spoke about dealing with the nerves of participating in such a prestigious event.
“Every time I walk out, I just know that I deserve to be there,” Schneider said. “You need to have some sort of attitude to portray that.”
Garcia echoed his teammate’s point.
“You don’t end up just being [at the tournament] out of nowhere, you have to earn it,” he said.
With 33 wrestlers in each bracket, both Bearcats have their work cut out for them as they take to the mats on Thursday. Schneider, who has earned the No. 13 seed in the 184-pound bracket, will start his day off wrestling University of Pennsylvania senior Joe Heyob. He has faced Heyob twice this season, winning both matches.
“When you wrestle someone over and over, three to four times, it starts to get difficult to beat them again,” Schneider said. “Knowing that I have an opponent that I’ve faced before, it’s not really about me wrestling them anymore, it’s about just me versus myself.”
Garcia will start his tournament against Northwestern’s seventh-seeded redshirt freshman Ryan Deakin in the 149-pound bracket.
Both Bearcats are set to travel to the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio to take on the stiff competition in the NCAA Championships. Competition will begin this Thursday, March 15 and last until Saturday, March 17.