By Jake Knabel, Director of Athletic Communications
Consider the time spent at Santa Ana College a crossroads. Muddled in southern California traffic jams, Andrew Schulte had plenty of time to ponder his next move. Even while immersed in beautiful sun-soaked landscapes, the native of Corona, Calif., knew he needed a change of scenery.
“It wasn’t pleasant, not because of the wrestling program or because of the coaching or anything like that,” Schulte said. “I didn’t live in the area and I had to commute. The traffic was awful. We didn’t have the luxury of laundry. I’d sit in my dirty wrestling clothes on the ride home in my car and it was pretty gross. I wouldn’t get home until like 9 p.m. and I wouldn’t have time for homework or anything like that. It was tough.”
Bumper-to-bumper driving is a thing of the past now that Schulte has taken his talents to Concordia University. The former three-time California high school state qualifier tore up the competition last season, his first in a Bulldog singlet. He went 20-4 overall with the majority of his wins coming in dominant fashion.
With an attacking style, Schulte took conference foes by storm. Says GPAC and NAIA North coach of the year Dana Vote, “In the eight years I’ve coached in college wrestling I’ve never seen a guy that comes in and just brings it every single day like he does. It shows in his competition.”
A junior eligibility-wise, Schulte is primed to enjoy more success than he ever did during his high school career at Centennial. Physically gifted, Schulte took time to develop his now relentless work ethic. He has wrestled since the age of five, but his passion for the sport teetered up and down.
What he really needed was the right mentor to steer him back on track and tap into his vast potential. Fortunately, Schulte got exceptional guidance at Centennial from longtime head wrestling coach Randy Campbell, whom Schulte calls a “good dude.”
“There was a time when my efforts were terrible and I think he (Campbell) knew I was better than that,” Schulte said. “He wouldn’t let me forget it. It was one of those things where he kept me out of trouble, but he also kept me from being average. He knew I was better than that. He held me to a higher standard.”
Similarly, Vote demands excellence from Schulte in the Concordia wrestling room. He demands it because he knows what the 2015 NAIA All-American is capable of. Under the tutelage of Vote, Schulte is figuring out that his toil and sometimes rocky road have been worth the while.
Not a lot made sense to a younger Schulte, who spent a full year after high school living at home and working a part-time job. Options were limited for an athlete still waiting to be discovered. Santa Ana College, he thought, could be the ticket to something bigger. “I can’t say it’s what I expected,” Schulte said of his initial landing spot. “What choice did I have? I had to go to junior college to make it happen.”
A runner-up finish at the California Community College State Championships provided a degree of notoriety for Schulte, who was ready to transfer. Vote saw film of The Golden State product and immediately had interest. Vote didn’t have a phone number, but he initiated contact with a Facebook message and so began a drawn-out recruiting process that sprawled out over several months.
“When I watched his film and saw the way he wrestled, I could tell it was a good fit for us,” Vote said. “I could tell I could work with him. He really wrestles the style that I teach. I felt like it was a good mesh. I believed in him. I felt if he would buy into the system that the sky was the limit for him and that he would have an unbelievable amount of success.”
The question was, would Schulte buy in? He needed a coach that would push him, but also one that would be there with him emotionally. He had to know that Vote had confidence in him as a person and a wrestler.
“I regret this in a sense, but I kind of sat on it for a while,” Schulte said of his decision. “I was like, ‘Let me get back to you.’ Then I thought about it and I would have been foolish not to take the opportunity. I even asked Coach Vote, ‘What is it you see in me? Why me?’ He just said he believed in me. That was enough for me.”
The prospect of heading far from home never bothered Schulte. You say eastern Nebraska? Sounded good to him. More than a year later, Schulte is where he belongs and he’s not letting this opportunity get away. His passion for his school and his sport are clear.
“I have a really good coach, Dana Vote,” Schulte said. “I don’t know if it’s comfortable, but comfort isn’t always a good thing. I do love this place. I love the environment to work hard. You can’t complain about opportunity at this school. You just can’t. Having to go through what I did at Santa Ana College – there’s nothing like having it all in one place.”
This ‘one place’ has given Schulte the tools to be successful. His early triumphs hints at exciting possibilities this season and next. No, Schulte and Vote are not afraid to toss around the words, “national champion.” He finished in fifth place in the 2015 141-pound national championship bracket, and neither Schulte nor Vote believes the peak has been reached.
Says Vote, “I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Andrew win a national title. I know it’s his goal. It’s my goal for him. We’re definitely on the right track. A guy who trains at that level, works that hard and does things outside the room like he does always puts himself in position to compete for that national title.”
Schulte made his way through the clutter and out of the city traffic that symbolized a wrestling career that seemed stuck in place. Fast forward to the present and you’ll find Schulte at a level he’s never been at before.
It eats at him that he never won a high school state championship. Can you imagine how it will feel if his ultimate vision for success as a Bulldog becomes a reality?
“It’s going to be sweet,” Schulte said. “It’s going to be bittersweet. It’s going to make sense. It’s going to feel like I sacrificed hours and traded a lot of other stuff to be No. 1 in a moment’s time. It’s just going to be worth it. It will be really emotional.”