When can men’s wrestling coaches begin to contact potential recruits? This is almost always the first question student-athletes ask us as they kick off their recruiting journey. In general, college coaches can reach out to wrestling recruits June 15 after their sophomore year. This includes emails, calls, texts, recruiting letters and verbal offers. But in some divisions, contact can start even earlier.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that before reaching out to student-athletes, wrestling coaches compile their list of top recruits ahead of time. That way, they know exactly who they want to contact when June 15 rolls around. In this section, we break down the NCAA wrestling recruiting rules, as well as the regulations for the NAIA, and take a closer look at how college coaches build their list of potential prospects.
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.
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.
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 sports must adhere to the most restrictive set of rules:
NCAA Division 2 recruiting rules are slightly more lenient than Division 1, especially when it comes to visits:
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.
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.
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: July 27 – August 2, 2020 (The Monday before the National Wrestling Coaches Association Convention through the last day of the convention), November 9–12, 2020 and March 17–21, 2021 (one day before the NCAA Division 1 Wrestling Championships until noon the day after the championships)
NCAA Division 2
Dead Period: November 9 (7 a.m.) – 11 (7 a.m.), 2020 (during the 48 hours prior to 7 a.m. on the initial date for the signing of the National Letter of Intent).
NCAA Division 3
Year-round recruiting permitted
Insider tip: Despite the impact that coronavirus had on college sports, as of June 1, 2021, the NCAA resumed its regular recruiting rules and activity! Coaches are actively working to fill their rosters, so student-athletes should be proactive in reaching out to coaches. Read up on how the extra year of eligibility granted to athletes who were most affected by the pandemic in 2020 will impact future recruiting classes.