FRONT ROYAL -- Four months after being announced as the head coach of Shenandoah University’s brand-new wrestling program, Tim McGuire has his first official signee.
Skyline’s Morgan Robinson, a four-year starter for the Hawks who is closing out a stellar senior season on the mat, became the first official member of Shenandoah’s inaugural recruiting class this week and celebrated the signing with a ceremony on Wednesday afternoon at Skyline High School.
McGuire said on Tuesday that the recruiting process began in earnest as soon as he was named SU’s first head coach in October, and the former University of Chicago assistant coach added that he was excited to name Robinson as his first signee as he heads into the closing stages of recruiting.
“Morgan will be part of like my original core that I have coming in, that I desired to have to build the team around,” McGuire said. “Morgan really, he exemplifies everything that we’re gonna build the program around as far as character, his work ethic and his wrestling ability, what he brings to the community and the campus as a whole. He’s really kind of been a model of guys that we’re going after.”
Robinson, McGuire said, was one of the coach’s earliest targets, and McGuire noted that Robinson landed on his radar even before he left Chicago for Winchester last fall.
After getting his hands on some of Robinson’s film, McGuire said two things immediately stood out: Robinson is an “exceptional” wrestler right now -- he won his first Region 3B title last weekend and should be a contender for the Virginia High School League Class 3 state title at 138 pounds this weekend in Salem -- and he has even more room for improvement.
Robinson is on track to become one of the first Skyline wrestlers to be a four-time state medalist, and he enters the Class 3 state tournament with a 45-3 record and 30 pins this season. McGuire said Robinson has beaten some “big” college prospects this winter, and his hope is that Robinson’s signing will help Shenandoah close the deal with some of its other recruits.
“Morgan has a leadership quality, a confidence that’s mixed with humbleness that really stands out, that I expect Morgan to come on and be a leader on campus, even outside of the wrestling mat,” McGuire said. “And he’s somebody that good people gravitate to. What will be nice is I think he has an energy that’s contagious, that he’s gonna kind of attract talent, attract the right character that we want, and that’s why I kind of look to building a team off of him. It’s exciting.”
Skyline second-year coach Kyle Symons, who led his team to its first regional title on Saturday and has the Hawks ready to contend for a Class 3 state championship, said Robinson explored college options ranging from the Division I to Division III levels and called Shenandoah a good fit for the senior.
For Robinson, his pledge to Shenandoah is made even more special because of the circumstances surrounding his signing.
“That’s why I really like it, I’m like the first one,” he said on Wednesday afternoon. “And (McGuire) wants me to be the first one. I just feel really important to him and it just makes me happy.”
McGuire said he’s spoken to over 40 recruits over the past few months and that he’s received verbal commitments from 15 of those. Eleven of those verbal commitments, he added, are top-three ranked wrestlers in their states, with many residing right here in the local area.
Robinson said he’d gladly help McGuire in his efforts to bring other wrestlers into the program, something he’s already done to some degree.
“I’ve talked to people, like ‘Let’s go to Shenandoah, let’s do it together,’” Robinson said. “I feel like that can affect some people.”
McGuire’s pursuit of the best wrestlers in the nation has taken him to states like Illinois, Pennsylvania and Ohio, he said, but the head coach noted that there is plenty of talent available in Clarke, Frederick, Shenandoah and Warren counties.
McGuire added that because Virginia’s high school wrestling is so diluted -- the VHSL is split into six classifications, and those six classifications hold their state wrestling tournaments at four different venues (five if you add in private schools) -- the state isn’t typically recognized as the “national hotbed” for wrestling that it is.
“What’s really exciting is I think we can build a national name off of our local recruits,” said McGuire, who listed schools such as Handley, James Wood, Millbrook, Sherando, Skyline, Warren County, Clarke County and Strasburg when discussing the area’s wrestling talent.
“I believe that there is elite national talent coming right out of this local area and I’m doing a good job keeping them here,” he added. “I think a lot of our starters, a lot of the big names and guys that will be competing for All-American are gonna come right here out of pretty much Frederick and Warren counties. That’s really exciting.”
McGuire said that more wrestlers would officially join Shenandoah’s ranks following Robinson’s signing on Wednesday (Handley 160-pounder Hunter Thompson has publicly announced his commitment to SU) and he anticipates having at least 15 “very, very good” college wrestlers when the Hornets start competing next school year.
McGuire added that he’s also trying to keep his expectations in check as financial aid packages get sent out.
“I don’t want to get overconfident expecting to have all these guys come in when I know a lot of things shift at the end,” he said. “Probably one of the biggest recruiting tools that I’ve had is Shenandoah is a better university than most of the smaller schools and other DIII schools around. Winchester is a drastically more vibrant area than some of the other colleges are located in, and so that’s really helped. Our kids are desiring and want to come here, and they see the value of the degree, but some other schools in Virginia are offering larger financial packages because they’re desperate for enrollment and we’re not. I have a little fear of guys stealing guys because of money but it seems like everyone’s really, really excited to be a part of this program, so I’m expecting 15, 20. We’ll have a complete, full team. I’m putting together a full roster. It will be as if we’ve existed for 10 years. We’ll be ready to go from Day 1.”