One of the best things, especially if you are a sports writer, about the Mountaineer Athletic Club's Coaches Caravan is the chance to talk with several of the head coaches at West Virginia University.
Such was the case when the group recently conducted its annual event at J.P. Henry's Restaurant.
My goal was to talk with each coach about: 1) recruiting; 2) this past season's surprises and disappointments and 3) WVU's new conference-the Big 12.
But, when asked about how recruiting was going for next year's wrestling team, head coach Craig Turnbull elected to go a different direction.
"I'm going to switch your question," explained the veteran leader of the Mountaineers' wrestling program. "I'm going to talk about (former Parkersburg standout) Brandon Rader.
"Brandon had a mercurial ascension in our program. He came in as a freshman and placed in a national tournament. The kid he pinned won the NCAA tournament the next year. His sophomore year he went out and placed again. The person he majored from Ohio State won it all the next two years.
"So, we felt that, after that sophomore year, that he was in place to be West Virginia's first native national champion."
That would not be the case, however, as a near career-ending knee injury forced him to miss most of the 2007-08 season and all of, what would have been, his senior campaign in the old gold and blue.
A medical redshirt was awarded to the 2005 Robert Dutton Award winner, but a shoulder injury suffered in his fourth match during the 2009-10 season sent him to the sidelines for the remainder of his collegiate career.
A promising career that looked to be over.
"He (Rader) had an injury that was almost career ending," explained Turnbull. "He came back, but, unfortunately, he felt so much pressure to get back to where he was that he never quite got there."
The story could have ended there. Except this was the same Brandon Rader who had posted a 161-9 mark during his high school career and claimed titles at the prestigious POWERade Championships and the Beast of the East Tournament as well as taking third place at the Ironman Tournament.
"He entered our Olympic development program and he is close to wrestling in that elite category where making a world team is not out of the question," continued the coach.
"So, we are very excited for Brandon."
The Milan Olympic Development program donates four full time jobs with part time hours for Olympic quality athletes. Thanks to Turnbull's efforts, as well as Rader's determination, the Parkersburg native was awarded one of those spots.
"That gives him a real shot of making the World or Olympic team during this next cycle," said Turnbull.
One of only six Mountaineer wrestlers to earn muliple All-American honors, Rader finished with a 56-12 overall mark at WVU with 15 pins and a 17-3 dual record.
Contact Jim Butta at firstname.lastname@example.org