Austin DeSanto is certainly a couple things. He’s an accomplished wrestler, and a habitual line stepper. After his most recent win against Minnesota’s Ethan Lizak, and the antics that ensued at the end of the match, as well as immediately following, there has been a lot of talk about whether it’s “good for the sport”. It isn’t. Here’s the main thing for me, on more than one occasion, I can definitively say that he appeared to hurt another wrestler. Certainly there’s the Micic fiasco at NCAA’s where he appeared to try to break his arm when losing his match in the quarter finals. What most people don’t talk about, is how he handled things in his Bloodround match. A match where he appeared to be in control, before he stopped wrestling, and began yelling at his coaches (he was wrestling for Drexel at the time), in a match where he ended up losing. That didn’t look like a well adjusted person, simply because he’d now done two things in back to back matches that I’d never seen before in trying to break someones arm, and following that up by mentally breaking himself where he lost it on his own coaching staff. I can’t begin to see how that sort of behavior is “good for the sport”.
The other argument that you hear is about how “heels are good, and having someone to root against is a positive thing.” I mean, that is simply not true. Inherently, by virtue of these being college athletics, there is a team you are rooting for, as well as the other team. College sports by definition has built in rivalries from within conferences, and decades of history. Iowa v Iowa State, Iowa v Oklahoma State, Michigan v Michigan State and Ohio State, these rivalries exist based on the singlets and schools they are representing. It’s unnecessary to have someone push those boundaries to the extent that DeSanto routinely does. Another thing is to try to compare it to other sports. Don’t compare it to WWE, because those things are scripted, and completely out of this world wrong. I think they buried the Undertaker alive once, and another time Triple H pretended to have sex with a corpse, which I believe we can all agree would be taking things too far in college wrestling. Instead, let’s compare it to NCAA Basketball. I’ll concede here that Wrestling is a much more violent sport by nature, and will include more physical interactions. This is a combat sport, and is essentially sanctioned violence, which I certainly enjoy. My point is this, despite any interviews where he presents himself as a polished and put together young man, Duke’s Grayson Allen was an asshole on the court, and routinely tried to trip and injure other players. It wasn’t necessarily better for the sport because Allen would stick his leg out on plays, or pull people down. In fact, I can argue that it was bad for the brand. Even Coach K suspended Allen for some games because he knew it wasn’t good for the sport or for their brand of basketball. Point being, being an asshole is being an asshole, regardless of which NCAA sport you participate in.
I’m glad that a team point was taken away, but for context, Oklahoma State had lost a team point earlier this year when they were angry that video review wasn’t an option, so those two things don’t seem quite equal. My hope is that similarly to Coach K, that Tom and Terry Brands are able to help harness the energy and fire that DeSanto clearly has in a more constructive way, and that he’s held accountable for not hurting his team. Also, don’t tell me “wrestling is a tough sport, and if you don’t like it, you can GET OUT”. I know it’s a tough sport, so do the countless people, with credibility on the subject far greater than mine, who have expressed their distaste for how he handled himself in the past and most recently. DeSanto’s repeated infractions scare me, and I hope that his punishments become increasingly stringent, because nobody that I’ve spoken with around the sport believes that what he’s doing is within the generally understood social constructs of what’s “right” and “wrong” to do here. One last thing, probably not super classy to wait until there was 5 seconds left to start running that half over and jamming Lizak’s head into the mat. If you’re going to be an ass hole, do it with time left on the clock.
Anyway, these were just kind of free flowing thoughts. I like DeSanto overall, and actually have him on my fantasy team. I expect him to be an AA this season, and to continue to make improvements to his wrestling. I just hope those improvements include his conduct on the mat.