Sutter brings renewed focus after shocking disappointment in 2007-08
Athletics - posted on 12/22/2008
Lakeland wrestler Adam Sutter laughs about it now, but cracking a smile was hard enough for several weeks following the 2007-08 NCAA Division III Great Lakes Regional back on Feb. 23, 2008.
Heading into the regional tournament, Sutter, then a sophomore, was ranked No. 7 in the country at the heavyweight (285-pound) division. He had amassed an impressive 34-3 record for the season, including victories over four wrestlers who would go on to be named All-Americans.
"Going into regionals, I felt good, considering I had wrestled a lot of the top-ranked guys in the nation and had beaten four of them," Sutter said.
On paper, it looked as if Sutter was a shoe-in for a spot in the national tournament in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He would just need a solid showing at regionals.
This was easier said than done, however, as Sutter, the tournament's No. 2 seed, sputtered in the quarterfinals with a 3-1 overtime loss to seventh-seeded Ryan Hatten of Chicago. He would finished 3-2 for the day, finishing fifth and out of contention to be a national qualifier. Sutter was named an alternate for nationals, but couldn't bring himself to appreciate the small consolation prize.
"Adam didn't perform as well as what he should have at the regionals," Lakeland head coach Pete Rogers said. "He knows it, I know it and everybody knows it - he just underperformed.
"I don't know what the issue was because he had probably only wrestled one bad match all of last season up until the regionals, then he put a couple bad matches together. It was a huge disappointment for me, and I think it was for him as well."
Sutter admitted he was looking ahead of his quarterfinals opponent, who he had beaten earlier in the season.
"I kind of looked past him and ended up losing, and just couldn't come back from that," the Gladstone, Mich., native said.
Sutter went into a funk, and Rogers said his heavyweight wasn't the same for a long time, at least around Rogers and the rest of the team.
"It took me a good couple weeks to get over it," Sutter said. "After that, when [senior 197-pounder] Paul [Hartt] went to nationals, I tried to come in and wrestle with him a little bit, but it was just like I wanted the season to be over. I couldn't take it anymore."
About a third of the way into the 2008-09 season, Sutter believes he has a renewed focus. He has started the year with a 12-2 record at 285 pounds, and is ranked ninth in the d3wrestle.com poll and No. 10 in the latest Division III Brute-Adidas National Wrestling Coaches Association rankings.
"You don't really forget about something like [what happened at regionals]," Sutter said. "You kind of think about it all year. Every time I did think about it, I just tried to kind of put it aside until I got to school. That's when I kind of started working toward where I wanted to be.
Sutter's teammate, senior J.D. Sylvanus (184 pounds), can see the changes as well.
"You can definitely see a change in his style - he's more of a
go-getter in matches as opposed to sitting back and waiting for the other guy to make a mistake," Sylvanus said. "You can tell he's looking to put kids away, and he's not looking to go into overtime anymore. He's wrestling tough."
When it comes down to it, Sutter has all the tools necessary to be a force in the heavyweight division - size, strength, quickness and athleticism. Rogers noted that some Division I coaches he knows joke with him about trading their heavyweights for Sutter because of his physical tools.
However, Sutter will need to be on top of his game mentally if he hopes to take the next step and qualify for the national tournament.
"Coming down to it, I'm a junior now, so it's time to buckle down," Sutter said. "During my freshman and sophomore years, I was just kind of getting used to college wrestling and just revamping the way I wrestle to match college. Now it's coming down to junior year where it's crunch time - you get it done, or it's going to be too late."
It doesn't hurt to have the 27th-ranked team behind you as well as the tutelage of two former college heavyweights, assistant coaches Courtney Howard and Nate Muckerheide.
"Our team is nationally ranked, so Sutter knows that people are going to be watching that spot," Sylvanus said. "I think Sutter's noticing the attention that we're getting, and he really wants to bring that positive attention back to Lakeland wrestling, show that we can compete and show we actually deserve to be ranked in the top 30."
Overall, Rogers sees limitless potential for Sutter.
"Adam always seems like he's in a competitive frame of mind," Rogers said. "When he steps onto the mat, he's one of those guys who can get it done in match-time situations. I believe in him more than probably anybody I've ever had here at Lakeland, as a person who can get it done.
"I don't see him letting something like [what happened at the 2007-08 regional tournament] happen again."
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