PITTSBURGH, Pa.: Lehigh’s Jordan Wood didn’t complain about the injury he suffered in last year’s NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships.
Most would have, especially considering the circumstances. Not Wood, that’s just not in his DNA as a person.
See, Wood dislocated his thumb and was forced to injury default before reaching All-American status. It was so bad that he tore ligaments and needed to have it reconstructed.
Instead of wondering, why me, Wood took a different approach. He did a little self-evaluation and realized that he needed to work a little harder
That paid off one year later in Friday’s NCAA Division I Wrestling Championship quarterfinal round. Wood put in a workmanlike effort and downed Iowa’s Sam Stoll in a 2-0 grind to reach the semifinals and become an All-American.
“That hurt, but that night, coach Pat [Santoro] told me, ‘Everything happens for a reason, God has a plan for you, and you are destined for something greater than this,’” Wood said.
“I questioned my effort in matches. My first year competing collegiately with the L-Hawk on my back, I wasn’t in the physical shape I wanted to be, and I molded into almost a typical heavyweight … Slower pace, not many points. It made me realize that you will have less regrets if you lose and let it fly than if you win and don’t.”
Wood didn’t have an opportunity to let it fly against Stoll, who is significantly bigger and weighs more than the Hawks redshirt sophomore.
This one was going to be a grind. There was no scoring in the first period before Wood escaped in the second to take a 1-0 lead.
Stoll took down to start the third. No matter what the Hawkeyes ace tried, he couldn’t shake free, and Wood rode him out the entire period to score riding time and a hard-fought victory.
“He’s a great competitor,” Wood said. “We’ve been training on top for the past month and a half. I’ve been letting guys out too much and too easy to get takedowns.
“We know in the postseason, there is going to be a 1-0 match where you need to ride hard. That’s exactly the scenario that happened today.”
And Wood passed the test.
The reward, coveted All-American status and a trip to the semifinals to face Oklahoma State’s Derek White, the top seed in the tournament.
“It’s been an expectation of mine this year,” Wood said. “Last year, my goal was to get on the podium, and I came up short. I was setting myself up to fail by saying top eight.
“I do care where I finish, and I want to be at the top of the bracket. So, it was expected to come in here and become an All-American, because you have to come in and win the next match to be in the national finals to have a chance to win a national title. I’m just blessed and grateful to be here.”
The thumb injury is a distant memory. It doesn’t enter into Wood’s psyche, especially with a chance to bring a national title back to Lehigh.
“It’s just the way it was supposed to be,” Wood said. “I had three more years. I’m in the first of those three, and it’s turning out good. Even though last year didn’t end the way I imagined, there is still an opportunity to make this year the year I want it to be.”