This past March the MIT Men’s Wrestling team finished off a historic season by winning the NCWA Division II Tournament. The title was the second in the history of the program after the team’s title in 2010.
Six wrestlers qualified for the tournament, led by team captains Ryan J. Madson ’13 and Samuel W. Shames ’14. Madson finished fourth in the tournament in his weight class, and became the first four-time All-American wrestler at MIT. He currently holds the MIT record for career wins with 145, and ranks third all-time in career wins in the NCWA. Shames finished 31-0 this season, and won the national title in his weight class, becoming just the second wrestler in MIT history to do so. Sam is a three-time All-American as a junior, and currently has a record of 103 wins and 8 losses.
Also competing at the tournament were Bee Vang ’13, making his fourth appearance at the tournament, and Tyler C. Laprade ’13, Lawrence A. Chan ’16, and Max L. Powers ’13, who each made their first appearance. In addition, head coach Tom Layte, who has been the MIT head coach for the past 12 years, was named NCWA Coach of the Year.
The team began the 2013 season at the NCWA national duals, followed by the MIT Classic, which was the first home event for the wrestling team in four years. Next the team competed at the NEC championships where the team finished fourth. Shortly thereafter, the team finished second at the NCWA Northeast Conference Championship. At this event, six of the seven wrestlers competing for MIT finished in the top five of their weight classes, thus qualifying them for the national tournament.
This season marks the 100th anniversary of wrestling at MIT, making the win that much more memorable. Several of the coaches and team members have provided quotes about what this season has meant to them.
“This past season has been the most fun I have ever had wrestling. Not only did I achieve my personal goal and become a national champion, but I had so much fun practicing and competing with my teammates and coaches. As a team we all experience highs and lows, but these ups and downs only serve to bring us closer together. All the hard work we put in binds us together and we end up just as much of a family as a team. Winning Nationals as a team only serves to validate the hard work and effort which every individual on the team invests. As a captain, it is inspiring to see everyone at practice every day giving maximum effort, not only to make themselves better but also their teammates. Without work out partners who consistently pushed me, I would not have achieved my goals, and without teammates who pushed each other, our team would not have won Nationals.
I would also like to take the time to thank the entire coaching staff for all their work the entire season. Having coaches who are so deeply invested in our success means the world to us as competitors. Knowing that our coaches are committed to making us the best possible wrestlers is reassuring as an athlete. All of our coaches have dedicated so much time and energy into each individual on the team that more than anything else our success reflects their hard work and dedication. Individually, I would not have achieved my goals this year without the culmination of three years worth of coaching. The reason we were so successful as a team is because our coaches help us to work harder and smarter than any other team in the country. The fact that our coach won National Coach of the Year demonstrates just how great a job he is doing.”
“I am a graduating senior and I’ve been part of the team for the past four years. The wrestling team is like an extended family to me. It is a place where I can remove myself from the rigorous and demanding academics of MIT and just focus on myself. It was two hours in the day where I knew I didn’t have to work or think about MIT. It was two hours where I work to improve my mental and physical health through wrestling. Through wrestling, I learned about work ethic, perseverance, and character. Imagine someone at the brink of exhaustion and then asking them to push themselves for another minute, another second. Many people will give up and back down, but this is what a wrestler deals with everyday. And through this struggle, a person learns about him/her-self.”
“I have been coaching at MIT since 1999. This year’s team is the best team I have coached since coming here. The reason is because every guy on the team was committed and made wrestling a priority. They did everything that was asked of them and always gave their maximum effort. Our philosophy is to be relentless and always pressure your opponent. In order to wrestle this style you need to be in great shape. Not all teams can wrestle this way because they do not work as hard as we do. Our practices are extremely intense and are designed to push them past their limit. This helps them become mentally stronger and teaches them about how to push through the wall of fatigue and get themselves to the next level. The great thing is this also helps them in their everyday life, especially when they have a difficult task at hand. Two of my favorite quotes are “once you have wrestled, everything else is easy” and “anyone can play a sport, but not everyone can wrestle”. This sport demands all of your mental and physical strength all the time. Every day you step on the mat, your opponent is trying to break your will. The team has bought into this philosophy and this is why we won the NCWA Division 2 national team title and why Sam Shames won an individual national title while becoming MIT’s first wrestler to have an undefeated season going 31-0.
It is extremely difficult to study at MIT and be successful in wrestling. However, for Ryan Madson and Bee Vang it was not. Both of these young men have been on the team and have been the leaders for the past 4 years. They are the epitome of what a student-athlete is. They always made wrestling a priority, never missed a practice or meet and this is why they had the success that they did. Bee was a 4-time NCWA national qualifier and Ryan is the first wrestler at MIT to become a 4-time NCWA All-American. These two young men are great leaders and will be very successful in anything they do. This is why I coach.”