By: Anton Richardson '18
BEREA, Ohio – For Baldwin Wallace University 125-pound wrestler Chris Doyle (Akron/ Green) and Assistant Coach and 3-time NCAA Division III All-American Jesse Gunter, life is just like wrestling. As in life, wrestling has its ups-and-downs and teaches you many lessons about yourself and your talents and abilities.
This weekend, Doyle will get a chance to test his talents and abilities and the lessons he has learned from his friend, coach, mentor and three-year wrestling room partner [Gunter] when the Yellow Jackets travel to York, Pennsylvania to compete at the 2017 NCAA Division III Mideast Regional Tournament at York College.
In wrestling, a takedown is worth two points. An escape is worth one point. And, a reversal is worth two points. Wrestling is not only an individualistic sport, it is a team sport and metaphorically a lesson in life. Remove the sport aspect from wrestling and discard the points, and the end product is life. The takedown signifies being knocked down and having to overcome adversity. The escape signifies getting away from the vice grip of an uncomfortable situation and getting another chance. The reversal signifies taking advantage of what an opponent [life] gives you and then applying the pressure to gain an advantage.
During the last three years, Doyle and Gunter have spent many, many hours practicing together in the wrestling room and working hard in the weight room in an effort to master the takedown, escape and reversal. Like brothers, the duo challenged each other in an effort to bring out the highest level of talent and ability.
Wrestling can be a grueling and tiresome sport. Like-minded individuals who want to achieve the same goal and are willing to go the extra mile is what separates the good wrestler from the great one. Having teammates who believe in you goes a long way.
"The quality of the teammates who I have practiced and competed against at my weight class the past three years, like Jesse, challenges me every day," said Doyle, who has helped BW win back-to-back Ohio Athletic Conference titles for the first time since the 1970s, compile a school-record 22 wins and a 22-3 overall record. "You're wrestling with the best every day, so you have no choice but to get better."
Wrestling against Gunter has made Doyle a better wrestler, a better person and a better student. Gunter is arguably the best wrestler and one of the best-ever student-athletes to compete at BW. He also feels his proximity to the program has helped his ability to coach and work with Doyle and the team.
"I am able to relate with them because I am not a full year removed from the program and being a competitor myself," said Gunter. "My teammates and now the student-athletes who I help to coach saw the success that I had both academically and athletically. They know I am not just some guy who talks about academics and wrestling. I'm someone who has done it and succeeded."
Doyle definitely agrees.
"In the wrestling room, Jesse and I were pretty competitive," said Doyle, who takes a 21-11 record this season into the regional tournament, and he has a 65-41 career mark. "In the beginning, it was kind of hard to adjust to his style of wrestling. But, what I did learn, because Jesse's style is so different, helped me to kind of create my own unique style.
"In addition, Jesse was the kind of wrestler who never gave up on a match," said Doyle. "He was always in it to win it, and that kind mentality has definitely rubbed off on me. I am a better wrestler and person because of it.
"Jesse also excelled in the classroom with a high grade point average and is now working on his master's of business administration," said Doyle, a business management major and economics minor who also has served as a intern in BW's Center of Innovation & Growth (CIG). "His credentials as a student-athlete are outstanding. He is a great role model for all of us to emulate."
On the mat, Gunter compiled a 122-15 career record and is the school's second all-time leader in terms of victories. He was a four-time All-OAC selection and three-time All-American who takes even more pride in being a CoSIDA Division III Academic All-American and a three-time National Wrestling Coaches Association Scholar All-American.
As a student, Gunter carried a 3.452 grade point average and was a Dean's List student. He has already completed his degree requirements in education and is currently working on obtaining an accounting degree while pursuing an MBA in Accounting.
Doyle and Gunter also have something else in common. Both were convinced by Head Coach Jamie Gibbs to come to BW.
For Doyle, BW wasn't on his radar for colleges when he first began searching, but somehow he made BW his home away from home.
"BW actually wasn't my first choice in the beginning," said Doyle. "I'm from the Akron area, so I was kind of leaning toward going to either Ashland University or the University of Mount Union in nearby Alliance."
The two things that changed Doyle's mind and brought him to Berea were Gibbs and academics.
"Coach Gibbs was constantly contacting me before and after I placed at the OHSAA State Tournament as a senior," said Doyle, who led BW to a 29-7 regular season dual finale victory at Mount Union on February 14. "Coach Gibbs was constantly talking about the team's success academically and on the mat
"I just took a chance and came here one day and fell in love with BW", said Doyle, who has helped BW set and reset the school record for wins each of the last three years from 17 in 2014-2015 to 18 last season to 22 this winter. "I knew I wanted to study business and I heard the BW business programs are among the best in Ohio."
Throughout Doyle's three years at BW, the university has changed him as person on and off the wrestling mat.
"BW has an excellent support system," said Doyle, who earned All-OAC honors a year ago (this year's All-OAC team has not been announced yet). "From the administration to the faculty to the staff to the campus resources, it is a place of opportunity. You just have to take advantage of those opportunities.
"I have never had a professor turn me down when asking a question or requesting a meeting," said Doyle. "From a wrestling standpoint, we are supported in the same way by the athletics administration, coaches and support-system resources. Coming to BW was a great decision for me."
As a sophomore, Doyle was selected a CIG Intern. The CIG prepares tomorrow's leaders to change their world as students learn – and practice – skills in creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship. Its mission is to infuse innovation and entrepreneurship campus-wide and contribute to the regional economy.
"Wrestling and the CIG goes hand-in-hand", said Doyle. "In the beginning, it was kind of hard to have that courage to stand in front of high-profile business professionals and other important people and present your research. They were a bunch of people you didn't know. It was just like wrestling -- it is just you and your opponent. You are put on the spot and have to produce."
Just like Doyle, Gunter did not have BW on his radar. "I was originally going to Mount Union but there was a coaching change, so I began exploring other options and that is where BW came into play." Again, it was Gibbs who was the difference-maker.
"Coach Gibbs was able to answer the one question I wanted to know," said Gunter. "I had placed third at the OHSAA State Tournament my senior year and my mom asked him why he wanted someone who placed third instead of someone who won.
Gibbs answer was the right one when he said, "I want you because for someone to battle back through the consolation bracket and place third shows heart and desire. If you win, that's great. But to fight back through the consolation bracket shows a lot of heart. That is something I pay close attention to. Those are the type of students and athletes that I want in my program."
Gunter places that same type of emphasis when working with Doyle and the rest of the Yellow Jackets.
"Even though Jesse graduated last year, he has always been there for me, whether it was the during offseason or last summer," said Doyle, who helped BW place second at last year's NCAA Division III Mideast Regional Chanpionships at York. "He was always there for any of us whether it is to workout, practice or just talk. Jesse was a great teammate and now he is becoming an excellent assistant coach."
Jacket Tough Mentality (JTM) is what BW wrestlers live by. The concept is having the mental toughness to get through adversity and being the best version of yourself each and every day.
"Mental toughness is a skill that you have to work at hard and practice every single day," said Gibbs. "Anything that is important to you has no season. Wrestling is a sport where a lot is demanded out of you. When times get tough, you cannot fold under pressure and allow life to pin for the win." Both Doyle and Gunter have learned and live by the JTM phrase , and it shows in both their schoolwork and wrestling.
Following the regional tournament, BW returns to action at the 2017 NCAA Division III National Championship Tournament on March 10-11 at the University of Wisconsin LaCrosse at the Lacrosse Center in Lacrosse, Wisconsin.