Wrestling has been an integral defining and enabling aspect of my life, character and philosophy. It has helped me overcome extreme adversity in life and has set me up for success in so many ways.
As a kid from a smaller town in Oregon, from the public school system, where going on to a university was the exception vs the rule and coming from a lower income situation, I was extremely fortunate to have been recruited by Stanford to wrestle. I likely never would have been even considered for admission to Stanford without wrestling as despite everyone who applies being qualified, only a small percentage are accepted due to the competitive situation. Even though I was recruited for wrestling, I still needed to pass the stringent Admissions Process. While academically I was an A student, writing was actually my weak spot and I painfully knew this. Most of what was asked for on the admissions process was already behind me (grades, SAT, etc) but the one thing in front of me still that could and actually DOES make a significant impact on selection was the “Essay” portion. This was the thing yet to be written, had the most differentiating impact vs all applicants with similar near perfect academic resumes and oh yeah, it was my WEAKEST talent. I knew I had no chance by playing the game- so I changed the game. I DIDN’T WRITE AN ESSAY!!! I wrote a mock Classified Ad seeking a “Freshman Roommate”!!! It was definitely risky but I had nothing to lose and I figured this would be the best format for me to ultimately give the admissions team what they were looking for while not exposing my weakness and simultaneously showcasing my strengths of creativity and taking calculated risks. Through my “Ad” I was able to capture everything that was important about expressing and revealing my character, philosophy, values, and beliefs. Suffice it to say, my calculated risk paid off!
Even after being accepted and getting to Stanford for my freshman year I was always self-conscious that I was “good enough” to be there and quite honestly very intimidated by the caliber of classmates I was surrounded by.
My years in college were extremely tough with working multiple jobs, becoming aware of some learning/reading deficits that didn’t surface during the much less intense primary school years, and dealing with some painful family situations where I had to harbor one of my siblings for over a year to protect from a family predator and deal with my parents getting divorced my sophomore year and all while being part of a intensive wrestling program. In fact after being at Stanford for only just over a year, I reached a low point where I was failing most of my classes and was placed on Academic Probation and not allowed to compete in wrestling until I could improve my grades.
But that was also where Stanford Wrestling kicked in and helped me not only survive through this adversity but actually THRIVE.
I went on not only to become a 4 year varsity letterman, I was voted Team Captain my senior year and went on to place 2nd at the PAC-10 Championships and become the first Division 1 NCAA qualifying athlete from my entire family. Not only did I achieve these things in athletics, I went on to being awarded the prestigious Chilton Memorial Award for Excellence in Product Design for my Senior Thesis project of my Engineering Product Design major after I disciplined myself to pull 4 all nighters per week and sleep no more than 4 hours per night the rest of the week consistently for the entire 10 week quarter. On top of all this, I orchestrated a graduation day spectacle with several wrestling teammates for the Wacky Walk, with the sole objective to see if I could create something worthy of being featured in the school newspaper- we ended up being the front page feature! I even proposed and wrote the curriculum for a new engineering class that was approved by the University and they let me use one of the labs in the evening and I was the instructor for the class where I taught my fellow product design classmates how to use cutting edge 3D CAD software running on powerful UNIX servers (did I mention I didn’t even know how to turn on a computer before my freshman year?!?). My classmates/students even received official course credit on their transcripts for this class!
After I graduated, I continued involvement with both the wrestling and product design communities as a volunteer coach and wrestling workout partner as well as became an Adjunct Professor for the same Product Design Senior Thesis/1st Year Masters Grad course where I won the award for me senior project. Through these engagements I have further enriched the experiences and education of many more Stanford students.
And all of this happened to a kid who had no business being admitted to Stanford in the first place if it weren’t for wrestling. And that my folks is EXACTLY the kind of story the Stanford Admissions team claims to promote in their selection of new students.
The elimination of Wrestling at Stanford is an elimination of seeking and acquiring the very archetype of student they believe represents the core Stanford culture of diversity of thought, talent and impact.
- Jeff Grant