Oak Hill senior Max Underwood grew up dreaming of playing football at the collegiate level.
Tuesday morning, Underwood realized his dream of competing in college, but it did not involve the pigskin.
“I have played football since seventh grade. Growing up I really wanted to play football at the next level,” Underwood said. “These past couple of years, I guess I have had a taste of what it is like to be on the podium and be one of the best. I loved that feeling. So, I kind of fell out of love with football and fell in love with wrestling.”
WVU Tech, where Underwood signed to continue his career, provided the perfect environment to make his dream come true in regards to wrestling and academics.
“(WVU Tech) offers the major I want in construction management. It is closer to home and I will be commuting. It won’t be as expensive as the other schools in the state,” Underwood explained. “This is big. Every recruit really looks forward to this day. It really cements your future career at the college level. The goal is to wrestle. I have gotten there yet, but today is a step in the right direction.”
Underwood did not start wrestling until his final year of middle school which made the move to high school wrestling a bit tougher.
Oak Hill head wrestling coach David Vincent talked about Underwood’s transformation over his four years in high school.
“Max became a leader over the past four years. He was kind of wide-eyed coming in as a freshman and he had a lot of learning experiences his first few year,” Vincent said. “He learned from them and grew from those experiences.”He has definitely been a factor in growing our program. He is one of the guys in the mat room that has pushed the other kids. I am going to miss him next year.”
Although his freshman year was an eye opener, it ultimately sowed the seeds for Underwood’s love of wrestling.
“Freshman year was really nerve-racking not knowing what it was really like and it was only my second year ever wrestling,” Underwood said. “Once you get your first couple of matches under your belt then you realize these guys are your brothers and your family. The wrestling team is really close.”
A solid sophomore year where he qualified for the state meet was an inspiration to Underwood.
“I talked to (coach Vincent) going into my junior year and he told me if I was really serious about (wrestling), that I needed to step it up. I kicked in and I am here now,” Underwood said. My junior year, I wrestled good and had more wins than losses. I went back to states and made it to the blood rounds before I lost out. Senior year I fell short, unfortunately, at the state level, but I had a really good regular season. It was always steady improvement.
All sports are tough at the next level. Wrestling is definitely one of the toughest.
“Max has been one of the hardest workers over the past several years,” Vincent said. “He will definitely have to put the extra work in because when you get into college, more is expected of you. It will be a learning curve. He may be wide-eyed again, even more so than four years ago, but Max really gave us his all. I am looking forward to his success at the next level.”
For his part, Underwood is confident he will do well at the next level, but he also understands the challenges ahead.
“It is hard to compete, not matter where you go. I will really have to refine my technique and stay in the weight room,” Underwood said. “I am going to make a name for myself this year.”