Christopher Shelton — Stillwater NewsPress
If an Oklahoma State Cowboy isn’t thinking about wrestling from dusk till dawn, coach John Smith guarantees that wrestler two things.
One, he won’t start.
Two, he’ll hear from Neil Erisman.
Smith appointed the junior as captain of the 2009-10 Cowboys, and Erisman is living up to the position. He’s determined to make sure every man in OSU’s wrestling room is serious about this season.
“Especially after taking 16th place, you can’t do anything but live wrestling,” Erisman said. “It should have been like that a long time ago. We should have continued that from our fourth national championship in a row, but we had a lot of guys come in that were just happy to be here. They’re obviously not here anymore.
“You have to live wrestling. There’s no other way around it. You can’t halfway do it.”
Erisman is leading that charge by example. The Desoto, Kan., native is 10-1, ranked eighth in the country and took first place at the OCU Open and the UCM Open to start OSU’s season.
It’s a big change from last year. In 2008-09, Erisman was only an intermittent starter at 157 pounds until Newly McSpadden jumped up to 174 pounds halfway through the season. This year, Erisman is not only the 157 starter, but also the backbone of the Cowboys’ squad.
“It was finally good to break down that wall of going back and forth,” he said. “‘Maybe I’ll wrestle, maybe I won’t today.’ It helped me out a lot in my confidence in my wrestling, just every area of my wrestling. It was the last thing I had to worry about. I could just focus on getting better.”
So what made the difference?
“Every day, I’d come in to get better,” he continued. “I eventually got that much better to where I won my spot and kept it for the rest of the year. It was work ethic, my attitude. Everything about my wrestling was different.”
And with the leadership comes a desire to help everyone else and make them the best they can be. But there has to be a balance between helping others and helping yourself.
“You definitely have to be selfish, but at the same time if you see somebody messing around, it’s pretty easy to say something and then get right back to work,” Erisman said. “It’s not really that big of a deal, but you definitely have to be selfish in wrestling a little bit to get where you want to go. Or you’ll be that guy who’s just helping everybody else and staying at the same level.”
Staying at the same level is the last thing Erisman plans to do.