Senior Michael Aldrich officially announced his commitment to wrestle at Ottawa University on April 7. For Michael and his family, the decision couldn’t be more surreal, leaving both of his parents astonished at their son’s high acclaim.
“Our family is really proud of his accomplishments, for his opportunity,” his father, Brian Aldrich said. “I’m excited for him to develop at the next level and see how far he goes.”
Through four years of wrestling at East, Aldrich accumulated an illustrious resume. He finished third in school history with 113 wins and placed at the Kansas State Championships in back-to-back seasons, coming in fifth this year.
Originally, Michael was set on attending Kansas State University next fall and majoring in engineering. However, because K-State doesn’t offer a wrestling program, Michael’s college decision was still up in the air.
This changed once Michael finished up the final wrestling match of his high school career. Soon after hugging his parents and sharing moments with his coaches, Michael was approached by Kevin Andres, the current wrestling coach at Ottawa. Aldrich spoke with Andres, then Kevin Ecker, a graduate from East and University of Missouri’s wrestling programs decades ago. He began coaching Michael at five years old, providing guidance throughout his entire wrestling career. Ecker stood beside Aldrich during his 30-minute interview with Andres, informing him of what to expect at the college level.
“That moment with him really educated me on the complete college process,” Aldrich said.
Quickly following his enlightening encounter, Andres offered Aldrich a generous scholarship for wrestling. Aldrich, who at the time couldn’t put into terms of what was happening, quickly acknowledged the importance of it.
“I’ve been wrestling for 11 years and I thought, why not continue my career,” Aldrich said. “I’ve been doing it all my life and don’t know what else to do.”
March 19 was the date that Aldrich and his father, Brian Aldrich, were invited to take a tour around Ottawa’s campus for the first time. During the visit, Aldrich took the time to discuss with current Ottawa wrestlers about the team, college wrestling and campus living. He even got to see the university’s athletic facility.
“The visit helped a lot in my decision,” Aldrich said. “I really like the campus because it’s easy to get around, plus the coaches they have are helpful.”
Grant Hollingsworth, who currently wrestles at Ottawa, graduated from East three years ago, sprouted Aldrich’s interest to commit to Ottawa. Hollingsworth and Aldrich still share connections to this day. None of these connections were bigger once Hollingsworth returned home from winter break this year. Hollingsworth called Aldrich, informing him about the tight-knit community that’s present in Ottawa, and also adding in the school’s dedicated wrestling program.
“He made me understand the benefits of college.” Aldrich said. “He gained a lot at Ottawa and he only showed me a sliver of what he learned there and got me hooked, so he definitely was a factor.”
Aldrich understands that making the transition from high school to college won’t be easy. As Aldrich describes it, he’ll be having to learn more wrestling moves next season in order to make the adjustment. More importantly, Aldrich’s parents also discern the challenges that await their son. His mother, Nancy Aldrich believes that college will be more intense for Michael, but in addition admits that there’s more opportunity for her son to grow in the sport.
“The coaches at the college level will push him but also bring to the table the skills he needs to excel at the sport,” Nancy said.
Brian Aldrich goes even further, saying that Michael will have to start over before he can move forward.
“He’ll go from being one of the best wrestlers in the room [on the high school level] to being at the bottom in college. So, he’ll essentially have to build himself back up,” Brian Aldrich said.
Still, Aldrich himself is confident that the new atmosphere will turn out well for him.
“I’ve been wrestling the same way for 11 years, so it’ll be tough to think of a different way at first, but I’ll get through it. I know my capabilities,” Aldrich said.
Aldrich will be signing his letter of intent to Ottawa on April 27.