High school seniors nationwide have lamented the loss of events like prom and graduation ceremonies. Nick Stonecheck found out this week he lost something even bigger.
The Buford senior and 2020 Daily Post Wrestler of the Year is without a college scholarship because Old Dominion announced Thursday it will discontinue its wrestling program, effective immediately.
Stonecheck, a four-time high school state champion, signed with Old Dominion in November and committed to the Virginia school last August. The decision to cut the wrestling program, which began in the 1957-58 season, was made for financial reasons in part because of the coronavirus, but it was based on the result of a six-month study by a consultant that recommended discontinuing a varsity sport for future financial challenges and Title IX compliance for women’s sports.
The decision leaves Stonecheck without a college wrestling option barely more than a month away from his high school graduation. He expected to report in June until he got a call from the Old Dominion coach on Thursday.
“I honestly thought it was an April Fool’s joke,” Stonecheck said. “The coach called me and said due to corona they had to make budget cuts. I don’t know why they picked wrestling. I feel like that’s always the first one to get cut. They’ve had success in the past (in wrestling). They’ve been around for 63 years. I’m just taking it as everything happens for a reason. Maybe that wasn’t the right spot for me.”
BUFORD — Buford’s Nick Stonecheck knew exactly what he wanted from his high school wrestling…
Stonecheck should be a coveted recruit, a consensus top-20 wrestler in the national rankings. He went 51-2 and won the Class AAAAA state championship, his fourth in a row, at 152 pounds this season. It capped a high school career that saw him go 193-11, even more impressive because of Buford’s high-level schedule.
The issue now is wrestling programs nationwide already have their scholarship allotments tied to other wrestlers. Plenty of colleges will want Stonecheck, but finding scholarship money at this point is a long shot. Whatever he gets from a grant likely won’t be close to what he had at Old Dominion, Buford head coach Tom Beuglas said. Beuglas said Stonecheck’s deal at Old Dominion was 95 percent, almost a full scholarship.
“I feel bad for him,” Beuglas said. “I’m going through (recruiting) with my son now. He’s a junior. It’s stressful. The NCAA shut down until what, May 30, right now. You can’t take visits. Everything’s kind of on hold. I can’t imagine signing, when all that weight is off your shoulders, and now it’s thrown back on you. They were supposed to report in June. Now two months before that, you don’t know where you’re going. The other thing is nobody has scholarship money now because it’s so late.”
Beuglas has reached out to various college coaches regarding Stonecheck’s availability. Stonecheck said he has talked to Chattanooga, Appalachian State and the U.S. Naval Academy since the news broke of Old Dominion’s shutdown.
His goal is still to wrestle at the NCAA Division I level, though the path there just got tougher.
“I’ve had this dream since I was 5 years old,” he said. “Just because they cut this wrestling program, that’s not stopping me from going D-I.”
Old Dominion’s decision affects 32 wrestlers currently in the program, the school said. It also impacted an 11-person signing class that included Stonecheck.
The Buford standout said he felt bad for all the Old Dominion wrestlers, pointing specifically to one current senior, Sa’Derian Perry. Perry wrestled at Eastern Michigan initially, but that university shut down its wrestling program in 2018, forcing Perry to find another school, Old Dominion. Now the situation happened to Perry again.
It struck Stonecheck before he even made it to college.
“Everything happens for a reason,” Stonecheck said. “No matter what, there’s always a plan behind it. Even if it’s not good in the moment, I may see farther down the road that maybe (Old Dominion) wasn’t the right place for me. It’s a little frustrating. It really is. But I feel like I can use that to fuel myself.”