FREMONT – Shortly after the conclusion of his Little Giant wrestling career, where he finished seventh in the state wrestling meet, Caleb Wood was asked when he looked back on his Fremont Ross athletic career would he consider himself first a wrestler or linebacker for the football team?
So intertwined into both sports, Wood couldn’t bring himself to answer the question. The notion of having to pick one over the other was too daunting a task.
As it turns out, he won’t have to choose.
Only a small fraction of high school athletes continue their careers at the collegiate level. Of that group, only a tiny fraction does so in multiple sports. Wednesday afternoon Wood became a member of that select group as he signed to continue both his wrestling and football careers at Division II Tiffin University.
“I know the wrestling coach at Tiffin pretty well, I’ve gone to nationals with him and everything, I thought I had a pretty good opportunity to get an offer and go wrestle there,” Wood said. “I ended up talking to the football coach too and I talked to my parents about it because I didn’t know if I wanted to do two at first, that’s a lot of work. I decided not many kids get the opportunity to be able to do both, so I thought I’d do it, see if I like one better or maybe continue in both.”
In addition to his parents and coaches, Wood said he’s reached out to friends already in collegiate athletics to pick their brains about the feasibility of doing two sports in college. He knows he’s in for a challenge, but Wood has never been one to back down from a challenge.
“Mostly everybody is saying, ’It’s doable, but it’ll be a lot of work,’” he said. “I don’t have a set plan yet, I don’t know what I’m going to do because I don’t know what the college life is like yet. So, I got to get the feel of it and I’ll get it going.”
Wood holds the Ross wrestling program record for most pins in a season (31) and broke the 100 career win milestone while earned all-TRAC honors in each of his four years.
Wood is just the latest Little Giant grappler to join what is becoming a national power in wrestling, as Ross alums Rico Punete and Trey Grine are already on the Dragons’ roster. Grine finished second nationally at 149 pounds.
Wood, who wrestled at 195 pounds his senior season, is expecting to be red-shirted as a freshman while he sits behind national champion Nicholas Mason at 197 pounds.
“It’s definitely intimidating. I’m a freshman again,” Wood said. “For sure, I’m going to just try to work hard and try to make something of it.”
Ross head wrestling coach Chad Hetrick said Wood’s determination and work ethic have, and will continue to, set him apart.
“If he can decipher the two sports and get everything situated there, I think he’ll fit in good,” Hetrick said. “He’s got something a lot of kids don’t have and that’s the killer instinct. Wanting to dominate, wherever he’s at, whether it’s the football field or the wrestling mat. He has a lot going for him.”
While Wood may have to wait his turn on the mat, he may have an opportunity to see the football field right away. First-team all-TRAC linebacker his senior season, Wood totaled 249 tackles in his career, third all-time in Little Giants history.
“They really feel they got a steal with Caleb,” said Ross head football coach Chad Long, who has also been a longtime wrestling coach of Wood’s as well. “They know how physical and dynamic he can be at the linebacker position. They play a 3-4 defense and it’ll be right up his alley and there is a real chance he could be playing.
“It’s a step up, but the physicality he already has. You look at him and he’s a pretty well put-together kid, so it’s not like he’s too small to play linebacker, he’s ready to play linebacker. It’s just a matter of how many guys they have coming back, and can he beat them out?”
Wood said he plans to study either education or business, though either way he hopes to coach future wrestlers and football players.
Change of heart leads Jordan to Ashland
Continuing his athletic career at the collegiate level wasn’t something Keaton Jordan had planned on.
The senior was prepared to attend Bowling Green State University and join its Army-ROTC program.
But as the light at the end of the tunnel of his athletic career began near and shine brighter, Jordan, who this season set a new Ross program record with a pole vault of 14 feet, 3 inches, realized he wasn’t ready for his track and field career to end.
In a matter of just a few weeks, Jordan hit the brakes, reconnected with the collegiate programs that had showed interest in him, quickly struck up a relationship with Ashland University and Wednesday afternoon signed on to continue his pole vault career for the Eagles.
“At first I didn’t know if I wanted to continue my sports career,” Jordan said. “Over the track season, I realized how much I actually love it. Once I broke the record, it was the best feeling ever and I was like ‘This is what I want to do for the next four years.’ So then it was trying to get a hold of coaches that were still interested in me and wanted me.”
Jordan then spoke to Ross alum, and former Lady Giant pole vault record-holder, Amber Otermat, now a vaulter at Ashland. She encouraged Jordan to seek out the Eagles’ program.
“The next day I scheduled a visit,” Jordan said. “It happened nice and quick. It was a matter of three days. I got there and I loved the coaches and the facility and they sent me all the packages with the scholarship and stuff and I was like, ‘Sweet.’”
Just like that, Jordan’s career was extended by another four years. Which gives him a chance to make-up for his senior season ending sooner than he’d planned.
“It’s a big relief and it’s a great opportunity,” he said. “Especially given this year, I broke the record and a lot went really great, but I didn’t necessarily end the way I wanted it to. Some little, minor setbacks that happened at districts, getting hurt and not jumping what I normally jump, which ended my season short this year. So, I have that in the back of my head when I go into college next year, I feel like it’ll push me a little more.”
In addition to his vaulting, Jordan is trying to decide which direction he wants to go in in the classroom. He is deciding between cyber security or fire science.
“They’re two completely different things,” he admitted. “I recently had a job shadowing that lasted three days at the Fremont Fire Department and I really enjoyed it and firefighting is something I’m really thinking about.”