Cornell Coach Mike Duroe has an eye for wrestling.
He quickly identified Trevor Engle’s talent in high school. The vision Duroe realized is coming into focus for the Rams sophomore 149-pounder.
“He has good instincts,” Duroe said. “I don’t think he realized how good he could be.
“He realizes more and more how good he can be.”
Engle has won 23 of his last 25 matches, attempting to earn All-American honors at the NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships on Friday and Saturday at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids. Action begins Friday at 11 a.m.
Engle (29-6) makes his second straight NCAA appearance, opening with Joey Gaccione (25-6) of Johnson & Wales. The winner will face Elmhurst’s undefeated No. 2 seed Ryan Prater.
“I’m definitely more excited and more prepared than my freshman year to be an All-American,” Engle said. “I’ve put in hard work all year. I think I have a good shot.”
The hard work started long before the season started in October. After falling a match short of reaching last year’s awards podium, Engle dedicated and challenged himself, training against some of wrestling’s best including former University of Iowa two-time NCAA champion Brent Metcalf and other Hawkeye Wrestling Club members and coaches.
“All those factors have helped him gain some confidence,” Duroe said. “Your preparation outside of the competition season is so important.”
Engle has wrestled as well as anyone, leading up to the national tournament. The successful stretch was a product of additional work in practice, according to Engle. He learned to ignore what his opponent might do, focusing on his own skills.
Duroe and Cornell assistant Chad Beatty emphasized strengthening his mindset and he ran with it.
“I have a lot of physical talent, I think,” Engle said. “I just needed more mental toughness. I’m definitely becoming more mentally strong.”
Interestingly, it is one of the two losses that may be the biggest motivator. Engle lost in the regional final to Dubuque’s Nick Drendel. The outcome did not set well with him.
“It sets off a fire,” Engle said. “It keeps you on your toes. It gives you a reality check, and shows you have a lot to work on.”
Duroe and Engle both pointed to a win in the Rams’ dual win over Augustana (Ill.) last month as a mark of his progress. He pinned the Vikings’ Henry Ruiz, who Engle had beaten just 4-0 in January. Engle also impressed Duroe with a pin over Drendel on Jan. 31.
He benefits from a motor that is stuck at full throttle.
“He doesn’t stop trying to score,” Duroe said. “He always tries to build his lead. He’s thinking of the next point.”
Engle has unfinished business this time. He just missed on placing in the top eight last year. Engle is determined to be an All-American, focusing on a top-three finish if he wrestles to his ability. The same capability Duroe recognized while watching him compete for Staley High School in Kansas City, Mo.“I know what to expect from the level of wrestling,” Engle said. “Every match is going to be tough. The (2013) experience will help.”