Nov. 15, 2004
By Erin Myers
Throughout the 2004-05 wrestling season Purdue wrestlers will be featured monthly on purduesports.com. This month's featured wrestler is junior 149-pounder Doug Withstandley.
It all began when 149-pounder Doug Withstandley was a feisty and mischievous 7-year-old, being taken to Freehold Township Recreation's wrestling program in Jackson, N.J.
His father, Douglas Alan, a former Nebraska-Wesleyan wrestler and coach of a club wrestling program, decided to bring his son along to see whether or not wrestling was up his alley. The younger Doug took to the sport immediately. And although he was just a child, everyone who saw him wrestle knew he had immense talent and potential on the mat.
When his father passed away due to injuries sustained in a tragic motor vehicle accident one year later, family and friends were not sure if he would want to continue with the sport.
"I wasn't sure whether or not he still wanted to wrestle," Doug's mother, Theresa, said. "Plus, I didn't know that much about wrestling. But I wanted to give Doug what he wanted and needed."
Theresa decided to get in touch with Miles Hahn, who had known her husband and was the coach of the Central Jersey Wrestling Club, to see if he could provide the instruction and encouragement Doug needed. Hahn accepted the role and quickly made Doug, nicknamed "Dewey," one of his "kids."
"I wanted to help keep him on the straight and narrow," said Hahn, father of two-time, 197-pound NCAA champion Damian Hahn. "He was like a sponge with the skills we wanted to teach him, too. He was so accepting of instruction. We saw his potential early on, and knew he was elite when he was young. I think he looked up to Damian, as well."
"Miles was so good with kids, and is so caring," Theresa said. "If he sees dedication in someone, he'll work with him. He was so good with Doug, and was always there when there were any bumps in the road. When he saw Doug's interest in the sport, Miles took him on wrestling trips to help him get more experience."
Doug never looked back.
Not only did Hahn take him on club wrestling trips across the country, but Doug's mother and sister, Dawn, went with him to several tournaments. The family grew closer through their mutual support.
"It was tough back then," Theresa said. "We traveled to a lot of different places together to help Doug get more wrestling experience, but I feel that everything that happened brought the three of us closer together. Now that he's at Purdue, it's hard not being able to see him very much, but it's a comfort knowing he has good friends there, and that (roommate and teammate) Ben Wissel's family invites Doug to their house over the holidays."
Withstandley has returned to New Jersey only eight times since coming to Purdue four years ago, but still considers himself extremely close to his mother; he talks to her once or twice a week on the phone.
I've told him many times that although the medals and trophies he's won in wrestling matter to him, it means more to me to hear from other people what a good, respectful person he is.
Theresa Withstandley, Doug's mother
"She has played the most influential role of anyone in my life," Doug said. "She has been my mother, friend, coach and tutor; she's played every important role a child could need in his life. Sometimes we butt heads, though, because we're so much alike."
"We're a lot alike," Theresa said. "But no matter what, I'll always be there for him. I've told him many times that although the medals and trophies he's won in wrestling matter to him, it means more to me to hear from other people what a good, respectful person he is. I'm just so proud. And it makes me cry after we get off the phone when he tells me that he is where he is now because of me."
Doug credits much of his success to his mother but he also gives credit to Hahn, who coached him for seven years.
"Coach Hahn was always interested in how I was doing and how my grades were holding up," Doug said. "We were really close, and he was a good male role model in my life. Plus, I get about 70 percent of my wrestling skills and knowledge from him."
Those skills learned from his club coach led Doug to a high school career record of 132-14. He capped off his senior season with a state title. The accomplishments grabbed the eye of Purdue's head coach, Jessie Reyes.
"Doug was an exceptional wrestler, and that is the first thing we look for," Reyes said. "Second of all, he had a lot of success at not only the high school level, but at the national level as well. And finally, he fit the weight we were looking for. We wanted a 141-pounder who could eventually move up to 149 pounds, and that's exactly what he's doing."
Hahn, who knew Reyes through Big Ten wrestling events, felt that the Purdue coaching staff had made a good decision in recruiting Doug.
"Purdue certainly got a diamond in the rough when they recruited Dewey," Hahn said. "He's a good wrestler and a good kid."
After opening his varsity career last season with a 6-0 winning streak, Doug finished with a 20-11 record at 141 pounds. Going into the Big Ten championships unseeded, Withstandley defeated three seeded wrestlers to reach the title match against Cliff Moore of Iowa.
"I was really excited after winning those matches," Doug said. "I was satisfied with how I wrestled, and I couldn't wait until the championship match."
Even though the turn of events at Big Ten's was considered a "Cinderella story" by most, assistant coach Scott Hinkel was not surprised.
"Doug has improved each year, and the way he finished in the Big Ten last year was what we had expected of him," Hinkel said. "I'm excited for him. I think it really boosted his confidence, and everything seemed to come together at the Big Ten's."
Although his sophomore season at 141 pounds was successful, Withstandley felt the need to move up to 149 pounds.
"I was definitely tired of cutting weight," Doug said, "but I also knew we'd have Chris Fleeger back at 133 pounds, Rene Hernandez could move up to 141 pounds, and it would just be natural for me to move up to 149 pounds. It just works out well for everyone."
To bulk up, most wrestlers change their diets along with lifting weights. However, Withstandley did not change his diet, and instead spent a considerable amount of time in the weight room over the summer. The coaching staff, aware of his intense workout regimen, noticed his considerable strength gain after the team returned from summer break.
"I have no doubt he'll be able to compete at 149 pounds," Hinkel said. "From his first year here, we knew he'd be a 149-pounder. He has the size and the ability to wrestle, plus he's gained a lot of strength in the weight room. Cutting weight wears on a guy; I think this is a good move for him."
Hinkel and Reyes have high expectations for the junior grappler, both at the conference and national levels, and feel he could become an All-American.
"He's most certainly capable of winning at the national level," Reyes said.
Withstandley has come a long way since arriving at Purdue nearly four years ago, bringing his own East Coast flavor to the wrestling room.
"On the East Coast, we have what's known as `funky' wrestling," Doug said. "There are a lot of upper-body throws. You either win or lose by a lot. Here in the Midwest, matches are close and there is mostly your basic, solid, fundamental wrestling."
The Purdue coaching staff has worked to correct Doug's "funky" wrestling style as well as his communication skills.
"We've been working on Doug becoming more fundamentally sound on the mat, which he has," Reyes said. "He's good on his feet, and good on the mat, and now we're just working on helping him to improve on turning people. He's also become more vocal, which is what the team needs. His communication skills have picked up a lot."
Hinkel also feels that Withstandley has become better at communicating, and has entrusted him several times with recruits.
"I trust the image that Doug portrays to young recruits of what the Purdue wrestling program is like," Hinkel said. "I've had him host a couple of guys, and I trust him completely. He's a good salesman for us, for sure. The guys on the team look up to him a lot, too."
Another component of Doug's wrestling abilities the coaches had hoped to improve upon during Doug's career was his work ethic, which, according to Reyes, has improved considerably.
"His work ethic has picked up tremendously," Reyes said. "He worked awfully hard over the summer, and I think he really understands the level he has to work at, and the commitment it takes to be a collegiate wrestler."
Although considered intense, serious, and someone who pushes himself hard on the mat, Withstandley likes to kick back and relax with friends off the mat.
"I basically just like to fish," Doug said with a grin. "That's about it."
Described by all who know him as an avid fisherman who loves the outdoors, Doug's outgoing, funny, and laid-back nature have helped him to adjust to the Midwest and make a number of close friends.
"Doug is an easy person to talk to, and expresses himself well," Reyes said. "He loves fishing, and likes to tell fishing stories; like all fishermen's stories, they all seem to get bigger and bigger."
Wissel, Doug's roommate, teammate, friend, and fishing partner, has known Doug since they roomed together in Owen Hall their freshman year. He describes Doug as someone who can bring humor to any situation.
"Doug is a funny guy," Wissel said. "He makes the rigorous season a little easier to handle, and can ease any tensions that seem to come up. He's definitely a fun person to have along on road trips, and I'm hoping he'll be even more fun this year since he won't have to cut so much weight."
Rene Hernandez, another of Doug's teammates and roommates, describes Doug as a funny, outgoing guy, but also, as an occasional old, grandfatherly type.
"We called him `Pops' for short last year," Hernandez said with a grin. "He got all grumpy like an old Grandpa-type of guy when he was cutting weight."
Doug Withstandley is a hard-worker on the mat, a salesman for Purdue wrestling, an avid fisherman, a cut-up on the team bus, a dedicated son, and the occasional grumpy old man. Though he may be tough to keep up with, Doug knows there is one person following his every move.
"My father is always with me," Doug said. "I still look to him for advice."
Judging by the results, the advice has been good.
Doug Withstandley is a junior 149-pounder for the Boilermakers