Nothing changes the momentum in wrestling quite like a pin. Worth six points on the scoreboard, a pin can reignite the fire under a team and alter the course of an entire dual meet. David Pearce’s pin Nov. 16 against Kagan Squire of Ohio University at the Eastern Michigan Open helped the Dragons get out to a 9-0 advantage that eventually grew to 12-0.
In the scorebook, a pin is worth six points, with no added bonus for style. If there was one pin that deserved an added bonus, though, it was Pearce’s.
When the opponent came to engage Pearce with his head down, he didn’t even think about it. He just did it. He jumped over his lunging opponent, took his back, and promptly pinned him. The move is known in the wrestling ranks as a “flying squirrel.” Six points for the Dragons.
“The move has been done before. It was started by a kid named Ellis Coleman, who did it at the World [Junior Championships], and it was just awesome,” the redshirt freshman explained. “You don’t practice a move like that. It’s just something you kind of do.”
At the time of the move, Pearce was losing the match. He was running out of time and knew he had to try something drastic. That’s when it just, well, happened. It wasn’t planned. It just came out of nowhere.
The flying squirrel is a move that, when done successfully, looks like every wrestler should just do it in every match. It looks so easy, so graceful. Pearce has tried the move before but with slightly less luck than the most recent attempt.
“It doesn’t work all the time,” Pearce laughed. “I tried it once last year, and I didn’t even get over the kid. It’s definitely not something you want to do 100 percent of the time.”
The team posted a video of the move on YouTube. If you haven’t seen it, then you are missing out. The team is pushing to get the move on the Top 10 segment of ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” and it got over 50,000 views online in its first five days.
The push to make the video go viral to get it in the hands of people who can further increase its popularity comes back to head coach Matt Azevedo’s philosophy on social media. It’s not just important; it’s essential.
At the college level, social media philosophies among coaches fall on a wide spectrum. Some ban the tool altogether, fearing that the athletes will inevitably misuse it and cause an unnecessary media firestorm. Others embrace social media as a way to spread their word and their brand to otherwise unreached places.
The latter resembles Azevedo’s thoughts. He sees its value in national exposure, branding and recruiting. He also sees the value in its immediacy and its ability to bypass traditional media outlets that do not traditionally cover wrestling.
“We have to find our own outlets to get our information and our brand out to the public. Social media is the best way; you can reach anybody through social media,” Azevedo said. “My philosophy is that I want our program to be a household name, so I am constantly on there branding our program, promoting our program, and trying to put Drexel Wrestling on the map.”
Azevedo is not the only person working toward his goal of making Drexel Wrestling a household name. He has his entire team working together on it.
“We’ve gotten our student-athletes to buy into it. Our assistant coaches love it,” Azevedo said. “I think they see that we can get a lot of attention or coverage or people excited about our program when we do these things.”
“Coach really pushes our Twitter and our Facebook,” Pearce said. “He’s all over it all the time. He’s really trying to get us to push anything we are doing at the time. He’ll tell us at practice, ‘Hey, go post this, go share this. Let’s make this go big.’”
The heavy focus on social media was born out of necessity above all. Wrestling does not get the coverage that basketball gets. Wrestling teams need to be creative to get their word out, something that heavily covered sports often don’t understand.
This was all realized early on. When Azevedo was the assistant coach at Cornell University and California Polytechnic State University, he realized what social media can do for a program. He stayed with what worked and brought the approach with him to Drexel.
“I saw how powerful it was and how many people you could reach and thought it was awesome,” Azevedo said. Now I’ve brought that over here and made my own tweaks to it and done my own things.”
Azevedo’s social media formula has garnered its own bit of attention as well. For his efforts, the National Wrestling Coaches Association named him Social Media Coach of the Year in the summer of 2013.
Just like a pin can change the momentum of a dual meet, social media can change the momentum of an entire program. With his entire team behind him, Azevedo looks to make Drexel Wrestling a household name. Getting Pearce’s flying squirrel pin on ESPN would be a major step in the right direction.