There are several high school and college athletic programs that use the nickname Wolfpack. However, none take the nickname more literally than the North Carolina State Wolfpack, and more specifically its wrestling program.
This season the Wolfpack wrestling squad, with its pack mentality, turned heads all year long by overachieving their way to the number two-ranked team in the nation.
Then, at the Atlantic Coast Conference wrestling championships held March 6, the Wolfpack displayed its hunger for victory by crowning four individual conference champions and sending eight wrestlers to the NCAA national meet.
Now, the Wolfpack has one job left to do. One final ride this season to prove the naysayers wrong. That last huge effort to capture that elusive national title.
On March 17-19, the Wolfpack’s eight wrestlers will grapple in the 2016 Division I Wrestling National Championships held in New York’s Madison Square Garden.
Headed to “The Garden” with the Wolfpack is West Holmes alumni, and now junior at N.C. State, Max Rohskopf. Rohskopf (15-2) will be the number five seed in the 165-pound bracket and will face Ohio University’s Austin Reese (21-12) in the first round on Thursday morning.
Rohskopf said his team’s mind-set of complete togetherness has helped fuel this successful season where they find themselves with a shot at individual titles and the ultimate goal of a team championship.
“We go through a lot of hard things together inside and outside the room,” said the former West Holmes great. “Everything we do is connected. When you’re a part of everyone’s ups and downs you grow together. We’re passionate people and very close.”
Rohskopf compared his team to the 1990s Detroit Pistons who were the “Bad Boys” of the NBA, a team out to justify its success.
“We feel like we have something to prove for the next couple years because we want to stay in the top five and be the top dog for a long time,” Rohskopf said. “I don’t think a lot of people in the wrestling community thought we could compete for a national title. If all eight guys step it up one notch from how they have been competing all season, which is extremely realistic, we can compete for a national title this year.”
As for Rohskopf individually, he feels as though the trip to New York for nationals is his shot at glory.
“This is my chance to do something special, Rohskopf said. “If I act like it’s something bigger than it is, I won’t perform to the best of my ability.”
Something that Rohskopf has used as fuel in the past has been his loss in the Ohio High School state semifinals in his final year at West Holmes.
With his sights set firmly on a state title, Rohskopf fell in the semifinals to Gabe Stark of Warren Howland, losing 5-0 in a match in which Rohskopf made one crucial error which cost him all five points, and a shot at the coveted championship he had set his sights on all season.
Now with his eyes on a new prize, that moment still plays in his head as a changing point in his wrestling career and his life.
“Throughout my entire life, I haven’t had anything given to me,” said Rohskopf. “I’ve always had to work for what I’ve got. Even sometimes I have put myself in those situations and had to find my own way out. That was just a moment that made me stronger and with my attitude I got better from. I lived and I learned and it’s paying off for me now. I can’t say I would take it back because of where I am now.”
And where Rohskopf is now is a long way from Killbuck, Ohio but he hasn’t forgotten where he is from and the lessons he learned in good old Holmes County.
“I will never give up,” said Rohskopf. “There is nothing on this entire planet that will stop me from doing what I want to do. Or at least trying.”
That attitude is what has made him successful and what makes Rohskopf’s teammates glad he is in their pack.
• Rohskopf is a Sports Management major and will be a keynote speaker for N.C. State’s College Bound program.
• NC State wrestlers joining Rohskopf at nationals are; Pete Randa (184), Michael Boykin (17-9), Nick Gwiazdowski (285), Sean Fausz (125), Jamal Morris (133), Kevin Jack (141) and Thomas Gantt (157). Both Gantt and Gwiazdowski and undefeated on the season.
• Last year, Rohskopf went 1-2 at nationals, defeating the #16 seed and then losing to the bracket’s #1 and #2 seeds.
• Rohskopf’s only loss this season in the 165-pound weight was to Missouri’s Daniel Lewis. His other loss came when he wrestled-up at 174.
• 11-0 in ACC matches this year with five pins.
• Seven of Rohskopf’s last eight wins have come against ranked opponents.