Understanding the NCAA wrestling recruiting rules and calendar
To protect student-athletes from getting too many calls and emails from college coaches, the NCAA established a recruiting calendar that dictates when and how coaches can contact recruits. While these rules are designed to prevent coaches from reaching out to underclassmen, unlike other sports, early recruiting hasn’t historically been as much of an issue in men’s wrestling. Even so, understanding the NCAA wrestling recruiting calendar—and how coaches work around it—can help athletes maximize their opportunity of connecting with a coach and ensure their recruiting remains on track. We break it down piece-by-piece in this section.
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When can college wrestling coaches contact you?
NCAA Division 1 and Division 2 wrestling coaches are permitted to contact recruits beginning June 15 after their sophomore year. Then, on August 1 before junior year, student-athletes can take unofficial and official visits—and that’s when recruiting really picks up. Typically, Division 1 and top-tier Division 2 wrestling programs set the pace; even though Division 3 and NAIA programs can contact athletes at any point during high school, these coaches usually recruit during junior year and into senior year.
However, that doesn’t mean your recruiting starts junior year. Think about it this way: wrestling coaches need to build their list of prospects before June 15, so they’re doing their research ahead of time. They turn to national rankings, elite tournaments and state championships to scout athletes. And even though coaches can’t speak directly with recruits, they find underclassmen who are interested in their program by sending general information, such as questionnaires and camp brochures. They’ll also discover recruits who may not have normally fallen on their radar by evaluating highlight videos emailed to them by student-athletes.
Bottom line: don’t wait. Be proactive early on, especially if you’re interested in competing at a Division 1 or Division 2 school. Research colleges to build a target list, think about the best camps and tournaments to attend, create a profile and put together a highlight video to get on a coach’s radar.
New NCAA wrestling recruiting rules for 2019
In May 2019 the NCAA adopted new recruiting rules that limit early recruiting among Division 1 schools. In some sports, athletes were committing as early as freshman year, so these regulations were enforced to give student-athletes ample time to make their college decision, like their non-athlete peers.
However, for sports where early recruiting hasn’t been an ongoing issue, like men’s wrestling, the new rules may have an opposite effect. Research from the NCAA shows that 72 percent of men’s wrestlers report their first recruiting contact being junior year or later. Now, as a result of these changes, coaches are contacting recruits earlier and the timeline has accelerated. For example, student-athletes previously took official visits during their senior year, whereas today many are taking place during junior year.
These rules also affect high school coaches. In the past, when college coaches were prohibited from speaking directly with student-athletes, they would reach out to the high school coach instead to express interest in a recruit. The NCAA removed this loophole, and now college coaches must wait until they can officially reach out to both recruits and high school coaches alike.
NCAA Division 1 wrestling recruiting rules
NCAA Division 1 sports must adhere to the most restrictive set of rules:
- Any time: College coaches can send recruits general materials, such as questionnaires, camp information, non-athletic information about the school and materials published by the NCAA.
- June 15 after sophomore year: Student-athletes can receive personal contact and recruiting materials. Coaches can call athletes, send text messages, direct messages and emails, as well as make verbal offers.
- August 1 before junior year: Recruits can begin taking unofficial visits and official visits to schools. Student-athletes can take one official visit per school and are limited to five total official visits. For example, a wrestling recruit might take three official visits in the fall of junior year, and then two in the spring. Additionally, wrestling coaches can also conduct off-campus contact with recruits.
NCAA Division 2 wrestling recruiting rules
NCAA Division 2 recruiting rules are slightly more lenient than Division 1, especially when it comes to visits:
- Any time: Like Division 1, coaches can send recruits general materials at any point, including questionnaires, camp brochures, NCAA materials and non-athletic information about the school. Student-athletes can go on an unofficial visit, and they aren’t restricted in the number of unofficial visits they take.
- June 15 after sophomore year: College coaches can call, text, email, direct message and conduct off-campus contact with an athlete and/or their family. Student-athletes can also begin taking official visits at this time. They are allowed one visit per college and are granted unlimited total visits to Division 2 schools.
NCAA Division 3 wrestling recruiting rules
NCAA Division 3 doesn’t have limits on when coaches can contact recruits. There are only restrictions in place around off-campus contact and official visits. Wrestling student-athletes will find that most Division 3 coaches recruit during junior and senior year.
- Any time: Student-athletes can receive printed materials—recruiting or generic. Coaches can call, email, text and send direct messages to student-athletes. Recruits can go on an unofficial visit at any point during high school and aren’t restricted in the number of unofficial visits they take.
- After sophomore year: Coaches can contact student-athletes off campus.
- January 1 of junior year: Student-athletes can start taking official visits. They’re allowed one visit per college and can take as many official visits to Division 3 programs as they like. Many wrestling recruits visit Division 3 schools in late winter and spring of their junior year.
NAIA wrestling recruiting rules
NAIA coaches don’t face the same recruiting restrictions as the NCAA. They can contact student-athletes at any point during high school, including emailing, texting and calling. Wrestling recruits will find that most NAIA coaches begin recruiting junior year—after ACT and SAT scores become available—and into senior year.
2019-20 NCAA men’s wrestling recruiting calendar
Throughout the school year, there are periods when wrestling coaches are prohibited from talking with a recruit and/or their parents in-person. In other words, during a dead period, coaches can’t talk to recruits at their college campus, a camp or the athlete’s school.
NCAA Division 1
Dead Period: November 11-14, 2019 and March 18-22, 2020 (one day before the NCAA Division 1 Wrestling Championships until noon the day after the championships)
NCAA Division 2
Dead Period: November 11-13, 2019
NCAA Division 3
Year-round recruiting permitted