The 2019-20 wrestling season kicked off Sunday for the Mountaineers when they traveled to Virginia Tech to compete in this year’s edition of the Hokie Open. The team participated in the event without one of its best wrestlers from a year ago, redshirt junior Matthew Schmitt.
In his sophomore season, Schmitt finished second on the team in winning percentage with a record of 18-8, trailing only then-senior Christian Monserrat (24-9). Schmitt placed fourth in the 133-pound weight class at the 2019 Big 12 Championship, which was good enough for an automatic bid into the NCAA National Tournament. At nationals, Schmitt made it as far as the round of 16.
This season, however, Schmitt will not compete in any events for the Mountaineers.
“Matt Schmitt is probably going to take an Olympic redshirt, so we are gonna need someone to step in there,” head coach Tim Flynn said.
The Olympic Redshirt is a redshirt season awarded to some of the top wrestlers in the country who meet certain criteria: they must have been top three on a past Olympic or National team top three at that year’s NCAA wrestling championship a previous Cadet, U23, World medalist or finish top eight at the Senior U.S. Open for that year.
Of those requirements, Schmitt fulfilled the last one as he finished sixth in Greco-Roman wrestling at the 2019 Senior U.S. Open in April.
Flynn said Schmitt’s next match will take place the weekend of Nov. 16. At the same time, the Mountaineers will also be on the road.
“He has a competition the same week we are in Northern Colorado,” Flynn said. “He’s gonna wrestle in New York City at the Bill Farrell Internationals.”
At the Bill Farrell Memorial International Open, the champion of each weight class will win an automatic bid into the 2020 Olympic trials for the United States team.
If Schmitt were to win that open or a different qualifying event, he would punch his ticket for the Olympic trials wrestle-offs in April 2020 on the campus of Penn State University. In the two-day event, wrestlers will compete on April 4 for a chance to participate in a best of three wrestle-off the next day, with the winner being selected to represent the United States Olympic team in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The Mountaineers have only had one Olympic wrestler in program history with Nate Carr taking home the bronze medal for the United States in the 1988 Seoul Olympics. However, Carr did not wrestle for the Mountaineers and, at the time of his medal, was an assistant coach for the team.
If Schmitt were to participate in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, he would be the first student-athlete in the history of the West Virginia wrestling program to compete in the Olympics.