All good things must come to an end. For Virginia Tech wrestler Jared Haught, that end is coming much sooner every day.
The redshirt senior from Parkersburg, West Virginia will wrestle in his last home match Saturday evening, when the No. 9 Hokies host No. 25 North Carolina for senior night. For Haught, the No. 2 wrestler in the 197 weight class, it wasn’t always smooth sailing to get to the point where he is today. In fact, Haught was lightly recruited, holding no other high major offers other than Virginia Tech.
“Jared was by no means what we’d consider a blue chip recruit coming out of high school,” said Head Coach Tony Robie. “He was very good, don’t get me wrong, but he was from West Virginia, which is not a heavily recruited state. We caught onto Jared late in the process. There’s a big tournament in late October down in Greensboro, North Carolina called the Super 32. We really didn’t get onto Jared until that event his senior year. Most of the schools he was looking at were smaller schools. I know Binghamton was in the picture and some other mid major schools.”
“I remember after being here [Virginia Tech] and seeing some stuff, I sat down in Coach Dresser’s office at the end and Robie talked a little bit to me,” Haught said. “Being like ‘Hey man, we want you. We think you can complete your goals here.’ Coach Robie told me that and my high school coach told me that. Coach Robie definitely played a big role in the recruiting process.”
Besides his relationship with Robie, an underrated aspect of Haught’s decision to come to Blacksburg was because of the engineering program Virginia Tech offers. A mechanical engineer, Haught already has a full-time engineering job lined up this spring.
“He came to Virginia Tech and he saw what we could offer from an academic standpoint,” Robie said. “When he saw the opportunities that he could get academically and what he could develop into from a wrestling standpoint, it was somewhat of a no brainer.”
After taking a redshirt season his first year at Virginia Tech, Haught immediately filled the 197 role as a redshirt freshman. Haught’s redshirt freshman season was filled with ups and downs the entire way. He qualified for the NCAA Tournament, but finished the year with a losing record at 16-18.
“He was inconsistent that year,” Robie said. “There was a stretch through January or February where he lost six or seven matches in a row at one point. He had some flashes that we thought he could be really good.”
“I started off pretty high. I won a lot of matches. Placed in Vegas as a freshman. That was pretty big,” Haught said. “Then I kind of went through a slump. I lost a lot of matches straight. It was a tough time, but it was a time of trying to stay focused. Once I got over the hump I was good. You have a lot of ups and downs. Now I realize how to change your mindset and stay focused every match.”
Today in his senior season, Haught is light years ahead of where he was as a redshirt freshman. Haught became an All-American the past two seasons, finishing sixth in the NCAA Tournament in 2016 and fourth in 2017. Heading into Saturday’s match, he’s ranked second in the 197 with a 21-2 record this year. For Haught, it was just a continual process to accomplish those goals and get to where he is today.
“Honestly I think it was just a bunch of building day by day,” Haught said. “I don’t think there was one set time where it happened. If there was a time though, it’d be my redshirt sophomore season when I actually became an All-American. Maybe even beating Max Huntley from Michigan. He almost majored me the year before and then I came back and beat him at the end. It wasn’t a pretty match by no means, but it was just somebody who beat me before. I’m not sure if there was any certain turning point, but I think it was just a lot of days building day by day that got me to where I am now.”
From Robie’s vantage point, he saw a wrestler in Haught who possessed the intangibles to reach this point.
“The one thing we saw from Jared from the time he stepped on campus was just the type of worker he was,” Robie said. “His work ethic is just incredible. His attitude is fantastic. When you get guys like that who come in here with a purpose every day and try to get better, they’re intentional about it, they know what they want to improve upon, and they stack those days up one after another for four or five years, this is the result you get. You get a guy who went from someone who really wasn’t on the radar to a guy who’s a two time All-American and ranked second in the country.
“He’s got incredible toughness. He can push himself extremely hard physically and mentally. Just being around guys like Ty Walz and gaining confidence. In our sport and any sport, confidence is huge. As he started to have more and more success, he started to have more and more confidence. He just started to soar during his sophomore year and into junior year. This year I thought he’s wrestled really well despite his two losses.”
So now the question remains: Will the team produce the first individual National Champion in program history? Hokie Nation thought last year would be the year with five wrestlers ranked in the top 6 entering the NCAA Tournament. While Joey Dance (No. 2, 125), Solomon Chishko (No. 6, 149), Zach Epperly (No. 4, 174), Haught (No. 4, 197), and Ty Walz (No. 3, 285) all became All-Americans, none could capture the elusive National Title. This year, Haught is poised and prepared to make history in his last chance come March.
“There’s definitely thoughts about it [a National Championship] all the time,” Haught said. “I kind of have to pull back because I understand there’s three matches left in the season and ACC’s. Being an All-American redshirt sophomore year was awesome. Being an All-American junior year, I’m thankful for it. I know this year, that All-American really isn’t big enough for me. I want to go through the tournament and dominate and win an NCAA Title. Then again, I’m just grateful to be here and be able to wrestle. We’ll see how it goes.”
This Saturday shortly before 8 PM, Haught will step off the mat in front of the Virginia Tech faithful for the last time at Virginia Tech. It’ll be an emotional time for him, reflecting back on his last four to five years in Blacksburg and looking forward to all that is to come.
“Looking back here in a couple years, I won’t be a wrestler anymore,” Haught said. “I’ll just be able to think about being prepared before the match. Standing behind our bench and waiting to go out there. Watching Zavatsky, he was always ahead of me for the most part. Kind of look at both sides. More fans always to my left, but decent amount of fans on the right too. Just being able to wrestle in front of everyone is really nice. I’ll remember hearing the guy who yells and heckles, all that stuff. I’ll remember it all. It’s going to be bittersweet.”
“I guess more than anything we’re thankful,” Robie said. “We’re grateful for what he’s contributed to our program. What else can you really say. I tell these guys all the time that your career is going to go by really fast. In four or five years, it’s going to go by a lot quicker than you think. Guys that really take that to heart and recognize that have a lot of success. For me, it’s really a matter of being grateful for everything he’s contributed to our program. The kind of person he is, the kind of leader he is. He really exemplifies what we’re looking for in a student athlete.”
Saturday night marks the end of all good things wrestling for Haught in Blacksburg. However, he hopes that all good things wrestling in his career doesn’t come to an end until his hand is being raised at the center of the mat one last time in Cleveland at the NCAA Tournament.