Athletic scholarships are cherished commodities. Any athlete in line for one knows they are one of the lucky few, especially in non-revenue sports like wrestling.
Desert Vista wrestling coach David Gonzalez sees it first-hand annually. State placers never get a single look from a college recruiter. Often their careers end when they walk off the mat that day.
"It's tough in Arizona because wrestlers have to be able to travel for competitions," said Gonzalez, who is also the state director for USA Wrestling. "Our state tournament awards six champions (in previous years) on each level, so you really have to travel to get your name out there, because being one of six state champions doesn't really mean anything."
The in-state options are limited to three programs. Arizona State is Division I, Grand Canyon University in Division II and Embry-Riddle is NAIA.
Club wrestling is another way to garner more recruiting attention because it gives wrestlers more opportunities to compete on a national level and improve their skills, Gonzalez said.
"You put your name on the line a little more," Gonzalez said.
Diversity of experience is one of the factors ASU looks for in recruiting, said head coach Shawn Charles, as well as students' previous conference titles, academics, toughness, past matches and more.
National rankings are an integral part of recruiting, Charles said, placing an emphasis on "bluechippers," or wrestlers ranked in the national top 10 in high school.
"If there's a kid we really want and that we think has the potential to succeed at ASU, we will offer him more financially than a kid that we like but isn't on the same level as a bluechipper," Charles said.
Scholarships are highly competitive in wrestling, more than in bigger sports such as football or basketball, Charles said, because the NCAA regulates that each division I school only has 9.9 full scholarships to distribute among the entire wrestling team. Division II schools such as Grand Canyon are allocated nine scholarships.
Comparatively, Division I-A football teams receive up to 85 scholarships and Division I-AA receive 63, according to NCAA rules.
Twenty out of the 32 current ASU wrestlers have athletic scholarships, Charles said, only two of which received full rides.
"It's really rare to give an individual a full ride," he said. "Usually we give them enough to get here and prove themselves, and then each year we can reassess them and possibly give them more."
Desert Vista senior Ace Martinez, who placed third at state last season, is among those hoping to make it to a college team with a scholarship. To have a better chance, Martinez had no off-season.
He is well aware of the scarcity of scholarships, he said, but still has hopes and knows his family will help him.
"No matter what we'll figure something out because I don't plan on stopping anytime soon," Martinez said. "If I don't get a scholarship I'll still walk on somewhere. No matter what, I'll wrestle."
Kaila White is a junior at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.