Assistant Sports Editor
After a wildly successful high school wrestling career, capped off by a 47-0 record in his senior year, Paul Petrov ’16 decided to bring his talents to Lewisburg to wrestle collegiately for the Bison. Petrov began his collegiate wrestling career the same way he ended his high school career and in the process earned the honor of the 2013 Male Rookie Athlete of the Year.
Even after having a great high school career, the transition for many athletes to competing at the collegiate level is a difficult one. For Petrov, another part of this transition was wrestling in a new weight class: 133 lb.
“I was an undersized 133 pounder wrestling opponents who were much bigger and stronger than me,” Petrov said.
This did not seem to make much of a difference to Petrov, who began the season on a hot streak, winning eight of his first 10 matches. Included in this stretch was a second-place finish at the Navy Classic and a third-place finish at the Michigan State Open.
Petrov attributes much of this early season success to the grueling training program the team endures to prepare for the season. These training sessions were high in both intensity and volume, which the first-year star initially found challenging.
“I definitely wrestled and lifted more this year than I ever did in high school,” Petrov said.
Despite these obstacles, he also admitted that the training was “a blast” and that the difficulty of the regimen over the long season brought the team closer together. Head coach Dan Wirnsberger commented that Petrov’s work ethic and the way he approached practice were important factors that allowed him to succeed.
“Paul came to work every day with a purpose and it showed up in his results,” Wirnsberger said.
Following his initial successes, Petrov hit a small mid-season slump at the Hoosier Duals and the beginning of the dual portion of the season, which included matches against nationally ranked opponents No. 2 Oklahoma State, No. 5 Iowa and No. 9 Central Michigan. Despite a few disappointing losses, the experience gained from competing against some of the best teams in the country prepared both Petrov and the Bison for the remainder of the dual season. After opening the Virginia Duals with a loss to his opponent from Virginia, who ranked 13th nationally, Petrov rebounded with back-to-back victories, including a 11-3 major decision over the 19th nationally ranked 133-lb. wrestler from No. 25 Old Dominion.
These two victories sparked a winning streak that carried Petrov through the second half of the season. In this span he won nine of 15 matches, beating opponents in the 133-lb. class from Franklin & Marshall, No. 24 Penn, George Mason, American and Cornell. Also included in this stretch was Petrov’s favorite match of the season, a victory by pin over Andrew Grabfelder of Columbia.
“I pinned my opponent and it helped give my team momentum. It helped them get ready and pumped up for their matches,” Petrov said of his match agains Grabfelder.
Following Petrov’s electrifying start, the Bison dominated the match and earned the 24-14 victory. For this reason, Wirnsberger was always glad to have Petrov in one of the first bouts of the day to set the tone for the Bison for the rest of the match.
“I was extremely confident whenever Paul took the mat because he brings a high level of energy to the team and who understands the sacrifice needed to be a successful Division 1 student athlete,” Wirnsberger said.
Although his season ended on a sour note with a sixth place finish at the EIWA Championships, it did not take away from the incredible season Petrov produced. His final individual record of 20-14 was one of the best on the team, and equally impressive records of 11-9 in dual matches and 6-2 in matches that ended in major decisions prove how big an impact Petrov had for the Bison in his opening collegiate season. This success was not enough for Petrov himself, though, as he feels there is still much more room for improvement.
“Our team has the talent and ability to do much better than the record we had this season. Our team can do better and will continue to improve each year,” Petrov said.
With regards to individual performance, there is also much work to be done. While admitting he had “a good season for a first year,” Petrov said, “I was not at national qualifier and was not on the podium at NCAAs. I have goals that I have not reached or completed yet.”
If there is one person besides Petrov who believes that these goals will be accomplished by the time his four years are over, it is his coach.
“I am excited about Paul’s future as he continues to grow and develop as a student athlete,” Wirnsberger said. “There is no question he has the ability to be an NCAA Champion and multiple time All-American. The best is yet to come as long as he stays humble and focused.”