The way Ashland University wrestler Dan Genetin (Navarre, Ohio/Massillon Perry) has it figured, a last-minute decision is going to pay off for decades.
As a senior in high school, Genetin was considering an array of Division I schools that included West Virginia, Pitt, Northern Illinois and several other Mid-American Conference schools. His high school wrestling coach, Massillon Perry's Dan Riggs, advised Genetin to give AU a look.
"Ashland? What's Ashland? Do they have a wrestling team?" was Genetin's reply to that suggestion. "I was about three days of deciding where to go. He was so nice on the phone that I said, 'I have to give this guy a chance.' He told me his philosophy of wrestling. I was pretty burnt out coming out of high school. I didn't know how I'd do at Division I."
Now Genetin is a junior who's made the trip to the NCAA Division II national championships each of the last two years. He's a mainstay on an AU team that begins the 2011-12 season ranked 10th in the nation. Genetin is ranked fourth in the country at 141 pounds. The Eagles open the season on Nov. 12 at the Michigan State Open.
It's evident at this point that Genetin and the Eagles are much better known in the wrestling world. Fourth-year head coach Tim Dernlan, the man who brought Genetin to Ashland, is largely responsible for that. Last year, the Eagles were 15-2-1, placed second at the regional championships and 20th at the national championships. That came after two seasons where victories were few and far between as Dernlan carefully built and nurtured a lineup filled with youngsters.
"He came in and recruited a lot of us," said Genetin of the AU head coach. "He got the job late. I came in on my visit and it was so late it was the last day of finals. When you get a new coach, you change everything. He changed the format. The first one or two years we had a solid team of 10 wrestlers. But then you get academic problems, someone gets hurt, someone gets too big. In college wrestling you can't have three holes. We have some depth now. We have some wrestlers who can fill that void.
"His practice schedule is awesome," continued Genetin. "We have Sundays off to let your body recuperate. He tells us, 'We're not the cross country team or the track team, we're here to wrestle. He doesn't train you to death, but he'll push you. He does a great job of getting us ready so we peak at the right times."
Coming out of high school, Genetin didn't have much time for this message. He was nearing the end of the recruiting process and was trying to whittle down his list of suitors. The last thing he needed was to add another school to the process. Dernlan had just taken the job at Ashland. Prior to accepting the job, he was an assistant coach at Lehigh. When he wasn't in Ashland trying to re-start the wrestling program, he was commuting back and forth to eastern Pennsylvania. Dernlan called Genetin and urged him to come see Ashland.
"It was late, very late in the process," admitted Dernlan. "He had looked at West Virginia, Pitt, some MAC schools. Because of the timing of things he was one of our first recruits. We were over in the dining hall and he got the biggest smile on his face when I told him to get a second helping, a third helping, a fourth helping. A lot of schools were recruiting him at 133 pounds, we were recruiting him at 141, 149. He's a great athlete, great student, a great person. He's what we're looking for in all our recruits."
The Dernlan sales pitch and that wide-ranging menu in the dining hall convinced Genetin to cast his lot with AU. He remembers members of his family second guessing that choice. That certainly did nothing for his confidence. Now, everyone in the family is on board with the decision.
"My parents said, 'That's the greatest choice you've made in your life. I'm glad his (Dernlan's) persistence paid off. It's all worked out in the end."
The end of Genetin's career is far from its end. Right now, he's viewed as one of the major pieces in the resurgence of the AU wrestling program. He's battled tough foes on the mats that got the better of him early in his career. He's encountered some persistent road blocks off the mat that have slowed him down, but never knocked him out. He's fought through knee injuries and a year ago, mononucleosis. Three times during the season, Genetin was tested for mono. Everything came back negative until the end of the year when the last test revealed why he was experiencing general fatigue.
"Little things like that teach you to persevere," noted Genetin. "This will only teach me good things for later in life. There will be days you don't want to go to work but you have to. There will be days when you struggle to get along with people but you have to get along. Hopefully this will help me down the road."
"He's one of the rare athletes where we have to tell him not to do so much," Dernlan said. "He does extra work every day. We have to watch that he doesn't overwork. That's a great problem to have."
Problem solving appears to be a forte of Genetin's. One of the biggest weekends of last season came when the Eagles went on the road and on consecutive nights won at nationally ranked Pitt-Johnstown and Findlay. Genetin points to those two victories as the turning point in the season. Riding in a van on the way to Johnstown, Pa., he got word that his grandmother had died. Genetin wrestled that night and the next night at Findlay.
"I beat a tough kid at Findlay to help us win the match," recalled Genetin. "That helped turn my season around and got me back on track. It helped me get my focus. That showed me I can do this through the rough times."
There aren't that many rough times now for Genetin. He's usually the one making life difficult for other wrestlers. His preseason rankings demonstrated what NCAA Division II insiders think about his potential.
"He broke his hand in the first match of his freshman season or he would have started for us a freshman," reminded Dernlan. "I've told him, he could be top 12, top eight. If he continues to do what he's been doing and stays healthy, he has everything it takes to be an All-American."