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Freshman Heavyweight Tommy Rowlands Follows Plan Towards Success

I knew he was coming. You knew he was coming. We all knew he was coming. But who honestly thought that he would have arrived so fast? Who we are speaking about is Ohio State freshman heavyweight Tommy Rowlands. He is quick to shy away from attention, but sooner or later the wrestling world will give him his due credit. After all, when was the last time a freshman heavyweight was ranked No. 1 in Div. I wrestling? But behind this great achievement lies a young man who is following a plan, one that he hopes will lead him toward greatness in college and throughout his future international career. Coming out of wrestling-rich Columbus Bishop Ready High School in Ohio, you might expect that Rowlands would have owned the heavyweight class in high school. Surprisingly, the six-foot-five, 235-pound Rowlands started his high school career at 125 pounds. "I started wrestling when I was six, and I've got to admit I was a pretty small kid," said Rowlands. "I wrestled 125 pounds as a freshman in high school and qualified for the state meet but got beat in the first round. From there I went up in weight and height every year." Rowland's high school career went from 125 to 160 to 189 to 215 pounds his senior year, taking home state titles in both his junior and senior year of high school. Rowlands feels that learning to wrestle as a lightweight is an asset that not many of his competitors have had the opportunity to do. "I definitely think being a lightweight has taught me to be a more technical heavyweight that relies on skill rather than just size, " he said. Rowlands admits that eating to gain weight can be a hassle, but doesn't miss the days of cutting a few pounds. "It's pretty inconvenient having to eat whenever I can to get bigger, but it's not as bad as cutting weight," he said. After a stellar high school career that also produced two USA Wrestling Cadet and two USA Wrestling Junior National titles, Rowlands was the No. 1 ranked recruit in the 215-pound weight class and was heavily recruited by most of the top wrestling programs. Rowlands chose to stay in his own back yard while helping bring Ohio State the top recruiting class of 1998. Rowlands joined recruits Jeff Ratliff, Ryan Hieber, and Johnny Clark on the Buckeye squad. "I grew up going to Ohio State wrestling matches, and in the back of my mind dreamed about being a Buckeye. I wanted to be part of the era that put the Buckeyes back into the national spotlight," he said. One of the reasons Rowlands chose Ohio State was Head Coach Russ Hellickson as well as his support staff. "Russ is a great coach who is teaching me to be a great person and that is important to me. He gives me the wrestling knowledge that produced him a silver medal in the Olympics, but helps me to be a positive person. He is without a doubt one of the most morally and ethically positive people I have ever met and is a big reason why I came here". Rowlands also had high praise for the assistants at Ohio State. "Ken Ramsey, Miron Kharchilava, and Mitch Clark all push me everyday to reach my goals. I'm pretty fortunate to have those guys in my corner and in the room," he said. Hellickson knew he had something special in Rowlands when he signed him and couldn't be happier with his performance, even though Rowlands isn't satisfied with his current 24-2 record. "He is very steady right now," said Hellickson. "Consistency is the key word in describing his wrestling and that is very hard for a freshman to establish. He might make a mistake one time, but he learns to not make the same mistake three or four times because wrestling is very important to him." Hellickson doesn't see the No. 1 ranking as being a factor in reaching his goal of being a NCAA Champion as a freshman. "Tommy is handling the pressure well, and is not wrestling to stay No. 1. That is not his goal. He wants to wrestle to win the NCAA title." Hellickson feels that Rowlands upbeat and positive attitude keeps any title talk from getting to him. "He is a very vibrant kid who is always happy and literally never in a bad mood or depressed. He's a very positive person and when something negative happens he redirects and moves forward," he said. Rowlands also realizes the sacrifices others in his life have made for him to be the best. "My whole family is very supportive win or lose. My mom (Cindy) and sisters (Meghan, Katie, & Ann) attend as many matches as they can which means a lot." Rowlands credits his father, Tom Sr., for getting him started and supplying him with the formula for success at an early age. "My dad wrestled at Ohio University under coach Harry Houska as a walk-on and eventually worked his way toward a full ride. He knows about the hard work involved in wrestling and passed it along to me at a young age. Without the support of my family, none of my success in wrestling would be possible and I am extremely grateful for that. I hope to make them proud." With a No. 1 ranking and a selection for the NWCA All-star meet, you might think that Rowlands may have a little difficulty staying motivated with such quick success. This takes us back to his plan. "It's nice to be ranked number one as a freshman sure, but the goal is to win it at the end of the year, so essentially the No. 1 ranking is not that valuable. I came to Ohio State with the idea of putting the team first, and I want to get us back in the top 10 where we belong. If I do my part of winning an NCAA title, it can only help the team and that is a big goal. " Rowlands has also excelled at every level of competition on the freestyle and Greco-Roman circuit and is a top young prospect for Team USA. He won the USA Wrestling Championship Belt Series on the FILA Junior level this year. He has won medals for two straight years at the Junior World Championships. Rowlands has his sights on taking his talents to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs to train at the Olympic Training Center. "I plan on moving to Colorado Springs after college to train with the best," he said. National Freestyle Resident Coach and Olympic Champion Kevin Jackson speaks very highly of Rowlands mat skills. "Tommy is without a doubt one of the best young wrestlers in the country," said Jackson. "His commitment to the sport is great. It's evident is his training and his conditioning. He's attended numerous senior level training camps and has done extremely well in the past two World Junior tournaments. If Tommy continues on this line, he should accomplish all of his wrestling goals, I have that high of expectations from him." Is stardom and success a surefire thing for this young upstart from Ohio State? That is certainly in Rowlands' plan, which has seemed to work so far. After all, we all knew he was coming. Tommy Rowlands, a redshirt freshman for Ohio State, is a technically skilled heavyweight wrestler. He moves quickly from setup to shot to finish. And, will surely be a force in the heavyweight division the next several years. The following clips are taken from his match against Mark Knauer of Iowa State University. (Click to view) Tommy Rowlands hitting a near arm far leg single with a tree-top finish. (Click to view) Tommy Rowlands snapping his opponent and quickly positioning for a re-shot. (Click to view) Tommy Rowlands countering a single leg attack by spinning off of his opponent's shot. (Click to view) Tommy Rowlands countering a shot and moving to an under-hook throw-by, which leads directly to a decisive pin. This study of collegiate technique is made available through the National Coaches Education Program sponsored by USA Wrestling. For more information on NCEP and how you can become certified at the Copper, Bronze, Silver or Gold levels please contact Ted Witulski, NCEP Manager, at
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