Former Wave champ wrestles for All-American honors
He was one state title away from completing the rare sweep and now he’s three wins away from becoming an All-American.
But in his freshman year at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (Prescott, Ariz.), 2016 Fallon grad Sam Goings gets a crack at becoming an All-American this weekend in the NAIA National Wrestling Championship at the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka, Kan.
“I thought I could compete at this level pretty good,” said Goings, who wasn’t surprised by his early success. “At the beginning of the year, I had a rough couple of matches but I’m hitting my stride.”
Goings, who won three state titles with the Greenwave and helped the team win its first state title last winter, won the NAIA West National Qualifier last month and needs to place in the top eight to become Fallon’s first All-American since Colin Merkley achieved that status while also at Embry-Riddle three years ago.
“I couldn’t be more excited for Sam,” Fallon wrestling coach Trevor de Braga said. “It’s been a long journey of hard work and dedication to get to where he is this weekend. I’ve had the pleasure to watch Sam grow into an incredible wrestler from Day 1. He is hands down the hardest working wrestler I have ever had the pleasure to coach.”
For Goings, making the switch to college wasn’t too difficult for the decorated wrestler.
“I felt pretty prepared,” Goings said of the transition to college. “There was some transition, some minor stuff. You’re wrestling, obviously, at a higher level. I was prepared because of going to the national tournaments in high school. I knew I was going to have some tough matches. It was not a gigantic shock. The intensity is different.”
Goings, though, has been on a tear since opening the year with a pair of losses and has a 22-6 record going into this weekend’s event. Goings, whose younger brother, Matt, still wrestles for the green and white, dominated last month’s qualifier, winning his 165-pound weight division.
“Sam has had a great freshman year,” Eagles coach K.C. Rock said. “He has been wrestling real well the second half of the season. I don’t think he has lost a match since Christmas.”
Goings credited his tournament competition during high school, traveling across the country and facing stiff competition, for helping him this season.
“Wrestling at the national level in high school prepared me well,” Goings added. “I’ve become a little smarter with my shots and tactics. I’m becoming less reckless on my feet.”
In the process, he recorded two upsets, including a 5-3 overtime win over Blake Cooper of Warner Pacific (Ore.), the defending national champion and No. 2 wrestler in the country. By winning his division, Goings received a first-round bye in the national tournament.
“I try to treat all my matches the same,” said Goings, who doesn’t feel intimidated facing higher-ranked opponents. “Both of the kids I beat (in the qualifier) had beat me earlier in the year. I had nothing to lose. I just wrestled smart and didn’t do anything stupid.”
Three wins in the championship bracket will put Goings in the title bout. A combination of four wins in the championship and consolation brackets will ensure Goings of placing no lower than eighth.
Rock likes Goings’ chances this weekend and can see his freshman grappler standing on the podium at the end of the tournament.
“He just needs to stay in his match and within his game plan and he has a great chance at making the finals as a freshman,” Rock said. “He is not a ‘WOW’ kid. He just pressures you in all three positions until he finds that crack and breaks you. I am excited to watch him get after it Friday.”
But Goings is focused on wrestling one match at a time, which served him well in high school and during last month’s qualifier.
“I need to wrestle my best and let the rest take care of itself. I’ll wrestle hard and see what happens,” Goings said.
When he’s not wrestling, Goings is studying in global securities and intelligence studies and was named to the Dean’s List last semester. Goings followed the Greenwave’s season, rooting his brother on as Fallon took second at state last month.
“It was hard to watch from the outside, especially during the semifinal matches, but I cheered them on,” Goings added.