My name is Kyle Patrick Shoop and I am a former Division I wrestler for Lock Haven University (2015-2020). Originally, I am from Boiling Springs, a small town located in South Central Pennsylvania. In 2015, I choose to commit to Lock Haven University over other in conference rivals such as Edinboro and Bloomsburg. My journey at Lock Haven was nothing short of an incredible experience for me as I accomplished so much in five years with the wrestling team. This story is focused on covering my junior year and what I did to set myself apart from others to achieve All-American status. I hope this piece helps you to find reasons to believe in yourself and find success through hard work. Currently, coaching wrestling at all levels is my passion and I could not see myself doing anything else.
Junior year at the NCAA tournament was the highlight of my wrestling career. I became an All-American at the PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh in front of 400+ Lock Haven fans. This is a memory that I will never forget. That season was filled with so many ups and downs, it was the biggest battle of my life. I want you to feel this story with me as we journey through day one of the season and go all the way through my All-American run. The purpose of this is to prove to YOU that anything can be accomplished with hard work and a proper mindset. Throughout this story we will cover a variety of factors that propelled me forward during the 2018-2019 season. Unfortunately, this past season, and my final season as a Lock Haven University wrestler, I was unable to compete at the 2020 NCAA Wrestling Championships. The event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The wrestling world was shocked, and this eliminated the opportunity for 330 wrestlers to compete for a National Championship and All-American honors.
Leading into my Junior year, I built a strong resume as a nationally ranked competitor at the 141-pound weight class. In my previous two seasons as a Bald Eagle I qualified for the NCAA tournament twice. Additionally, my sophomore year I lead the country in technical fall victories. That summer (2018) I decided to stay in Lock Haven and work construction part time and train part-time. Myself, my brother Lucas, and my teammates Lewis Williams, Corey Hazel, and Lucas Ortiz worked together throughout that summer. We all worked close to 40 hours a week in hotels and residential areas for about 75% of the summer. With a couple of weeks left before school started, I ended my employment to train. Once I returned full time to wrestling and school, I felt great and was ready to train hard for the upcoming season. There was one major obstacle facing me at the time, DJ Felhman, a very strong and talented 133 pounder making the move up to my weight class.
Competition Breeds Champions
DJ is great guy and an amazing competitor that pushed me to achieve new heights. Without DJ, I would not have become an All-American. The beginning of the season did not start off how I expected it to. I was not prepared for the wrestle-off between DJ and myself. That summer DJ was making wrestling gains while I was sanding drywall. He was working hard and when it came down to wrestle-offs he prevailed over me with a major decision. The match was very physical on my end, I was essentially punching him as the loss of my 141-pound spot flashed in front of my eyes. My actions were unwarranted as he clearly used his skill and better conditioning to power through me that day. After the match I went to a dark place in my mind. I sat in the living room of my house for hours with the lights off staring at the wall. Ultimately, this loss motivated me to find and unleash the best version of myself. That day forward I promised to give 110% and go beyond what was expected. Wrestle-offs were just the first of three showdowns between DJ and I over the next couple of weeks.
The first tournament of the year at the Clarion Open we met in the finals where I defeated him by technical fall. This was a huge confidence boost for me and proved that my extra workouts and weight management was working. Fast forward just a week later and we met again in the finals of the West Point Invitational. The match was a nail biter and ultimately, I fell short by a 4-2 decision and he earned the sword. We never wrestled again in a match after West Point, but his presence and work ethic motivated me throughout the season. Later in the season, DJ made the decision to drop back down to 133 pounds. He qualified for the NCAA tournament and powered his way through to the round of 16.
Throughout the wrestling season there are moments where you don’t think you can go harder and do more. “The Grind” is a famous saying that coaches refer to as the wrestling season. Wrestling is the longest and hardest NCAA sport, period. Name another sport where you weigh-in after cutting weight and compete within an hour or two. “The Grind” is unforgiving and your opponents will exploit your weaknesses. College wrestlers know you must be tough mentally and physically to make it through the season. Someone who was crucial in my journey through “The Grind” was Cole Manley. Cole started his wrestling career at Virginia Tech but struggled to adapt to the big school feel. When Cole announced he was transferring, I met him and his family briefly before they went on a tour of the Lock Haven campus. Soon after, Cole was committed, and I was excited to get to know him more and begin training. We spent some time outside of wrestling hanging out that summer, but we really became close after wrestle-offs. After my losses to DJ, I began reaching out to him to workout with me regularly. We built a strong relationship where we meshed through wrestling and became close friends. Cole was a great training partner because I could count on him to be there for me anytime of the day or night. Our workouts, technique, and flow continued to improve all season. I will say without Cole coming into the room with me almost every day of the week, I would not have achieved All-American status. The moral of the story is you can’t achieve big goals if you don’t have the right people pushing you.
When you wrestle for a small school like Lock Haven sometimes it’s hard not to look at other schools and become jealous of what they have. Controlling all the aspects you can is so imperative for wrestlers to learn. Mat time was my number one concern in the 2018-2019 season, and I made a commitment to double it from the previous season. When I would come into the room it was not uncommon for me practice up to three times a day. This gave me an edge because I was spending hours improving my skills. Cole was a huge asset to me and always came in whenever I would ask. We planned our workouts and focused on a certain skill each day. Sunday night grinds were my favorite. I often worked out during odd hours when the Thomas Fieldhouse was empty. We would train early in the morning and late at night. It was just Cole and I. Knowing that I was putting in the extra effort contributed greatly to my mental edge. One amazing side effect of working out repetitively throughout the week was the ability to eat more and hydrate. My weight was never an issue after the first few weeks of the season. This kept my stress levels low and allowed me to focus on getting better at wrestling.
The Mental Edge
Junior year my mindset was strong, nobody could stop me from achieving my goals. How and what you think about throughout a day is very important in combat sports. Wrestling is 90% mental and 10% physical. Your mind will control what your body can do. Throughout the year, compared to my first two seasons, I found a stronger sense of confidence. In my previous two seasons, especially at the national tournament, I was just happy to be there. This season, I was focused on wrestling in and outside of the room. The sport consumed my mind and I visualized my success all season. Every single day I exercised my mind gaining key mental repetitions leading up to the NCAA tournament. I began to believe I could beat the best guys in the country and my results were proving that. Sam Krivus, a very talented wrestler originally from Pennsylvania, was one of my foes in college. We wrestled three matches in the past two seasons, and he handled me easily each time. This changed when my hard work and determined mindset came together at the Virginia Duals. I defeated Krivus 9-4. Josh Alber, a stud from Northern Iowa, defeated me twice in the previous year by a margin of 14 points or more. When it mattered most and the lights were shining in PPG Paints Arena, I secured a 19-10 victory.
Altering my mental approach to matches along with hours of visualization was critical to securing a spot on the podium. Visualization was imperative at the national tournament where I would use it about 20-30 minutes before wrestling and also at night in the hotel room. Before every match I would go to the locker room, sit down and close my eyes and envision my perfect match. After this, I would power pose for about two minutes before entering the warm-up area. These little things made a huge difference in my wrestling performance at the NCAA tournament.
Talk About It
Becoming an All-American was the only thing on my mind in 2019 and I let others around me know. One of the craziest experiences of my life was when Kaid Brock and I squared off in the round of 12. The irony was I predicted this exact match all year long. Countless times I told my roommates, teammates, and girlfriend I will have to beat Kaid Brock to become an All- American. When the time eventually came, I was ready for the opportunity and seized a gutsy 14-10 victory. Being vocal about your goals is very important because people then hold you accountable. Additionally, people will be honest with you if they believe that you’re slacking off. Talk is just talk if you lack the action and perseverance to achieve your goals. One of my favorite sayings is “Don’t talk about it. Be about it”.
Chip On My Shoulder
Throughout the year, I spent most of the season outside the top 20 rankings. This was something I took personally and used as motivation. Obviously, rankings do not mean much in wrestling. Anything can happen in seven minutes. I was trying to prove that I was one the best in the country. During the year, I earned victories over several ranked opponents and National Qualifiers while maintaining a strong overall in-season record of 28-6. Additionally, my six in-season losses were to ranked guys like Dom Demas (x2), Nick Lee, Yianni Diakomihalis, Cameron Kelly, and DJ. These losses never slowed me down or broke me. I continued to focus on the areas I was weak in. The losses added fuel to my fire and continued to push me down a path of hard work. All I really wanted from the wrestling world was respect. Sometimes you will not get it. Keep working hard and always try to ignore the hype of the rankings.
Letting It Fly
March finally arrived bringing with it the EWL Conference Championships. In Fairfax, Virginia on March 10th I earned the championship at my weight class outscoring three opponents 40-1. Lock Haven crowned six EWL individual champions and came home with a team championship. Later that month, the NCAA seeding committee released the rankings. I was thrilled to learn that I was the 13th seed in the 141-pound bracket at the NCAA tournament. Everything I worked for was on the line in front of thousands of fans in the PPG Paints Arena. We arrived three days early, and I was feeling like a boss. The team and I warmed up and rolled around in the massive arena. Wrestling was a couple days away and I was relaxed and poised for a break-out performance. Nights were spent in my hotel room eyes closed visualizing my path to becoming an All-American. I refused to leave without this status.
The days passed quickly in Pittsburgh. Stepping off the scale around 10am Thursday I was prepared for a battle against Matt Findlay. Matt was arguably one of the biggest guys in the weight class. The match lived up to the expectation and was an all-out war. The third period came, and I was down by two. I choose neutral and finished a takedown, then rode him out for my first win, 8-7. This victory was huge, and I was pumped. You could feel the energy that radiated off the fans in the arena. The next match was not until 7pm. My coaches and I looked at the results of the round and discovered that I will wrestle against my foe from Northern Iowa, Josh Alber.
Given my history with Alber, I knew people would doubt my abilities. This was a perfect opportunity for me. We shook hands and the match began with an Alber takedown early in the first period. After the takedown I knew I needed to get on top and fast. I reversed him and locked down my signature cross wrist tilt and controlled the rest of the match. The final score was 19- 10, a huge major decision victory for me and the team. My confidence continued to grow stronger as I powered through the bracket. The victory advanced me into the quarterfinals on day two against Jayden Eierman.
Anxiously, I waited for day two and knew my goal was only one win away. Eierman and I squared off in the quarterfinals on Friday morning. Even with my best effort I fell short by an 8-3 decision. This loss did not discourage me or distract me from my main objective. I fell to the consolation bracket and prepared for wrestle backs. What I said would happen all year did…Kaid Brock in the blood round.
My teammates and I left the arena and headed over to the Lock Haven Social loaded with hundreds of supporters. Coach Moore gave an incredibly motivating speech that moved me and prepared me for this battle. Just before heading back the arena I hugged my girlfriend and told my friends and family that the next time they see me I will be an All-American.
Soon I was toeing the line against Kaid. The whistle blew and we started wrestling. I ended up on a leg early in the first and we scrambled to a stalemate. Soon after I was in deep on a knee pull and finished it, now up 2-0. We went out of bounds. Right off the restart I secured a 4-point turn, now up 6-0. Seconds later I gave up a reversal and the first period ended 6-2 and Kaid had eliminated my riding time advantage. The second period belonged to Kaid, he used three takedowns to cut the lead to an 8-8 tie. It was my choice going into the third period, I elected to start the period from the top position. The whistle blew and I rode him for about 35 seconds and then gave up a reversal and the lead, 10-8. With 1:10 on the clock I remember tripodding up on all fours. During the tripod he went to the claw ride, and I went for the roll. We rolled and as I got my hips up, I put Kaid on his back collecting 4 near fall points. Now I knew I was going to win. The remainder of the bout I rode cautiously as the time ran out. The bout was completed, and we walked back to the center. I looked up and saw 400+ Lock Haven fans going crazy! I shook Kaid’s hand and as my hand was lifted, I felt the hard work and sacrifice pay off as my supporters cheered me on. When I walked off the mat I was overtaken by emotion. I realized I made my dream a reality and now have earned All-American status. The feeling was incredible, and it can’t be described unless you earn it yourself. Later that night I would wrestle again against Dom Demas of Oklahoma. The match was hard fought, but his dominance from his feet led him to a 10-4 victory.
On Saturday, the last day of the tournament, my final match was against Chad Red for the seventh and eighth place match. I woke at 7:30am to check my weight and was 2.5 pounds over. After checking my weight, I hit the fitness room. While I was running, I threw on some music and was jamming thinking “this weight is coming off easy” with a huge smile. I went to the arena still a little overweight and did a light drill with Ronnie Perry. Finally, I stepped on the scale and my weight was good. After a light recovery meal, I was ready to go. The match came, we toed the line and shook hands. Right away I used a Russian high single to secure two takedowns in the first period for a 4-1 lead. In the second period using forward pressure and my top game, I secured two cross-wrist turns raising the lead to 10-1. The third period I elected to go top and gave up a late reversal but prevailed with the win, 11-3 after riding time. A couple hours went by and the next best thing for me was the parade of champions. When I walked out there, I realized I made it and BELONG with the best.
My journey at Lock Haven was amazing. There I realized you have the power to control your fate with an unbreakable work ethic. The career I had at Lock Haven brought with it many ups and downs, but I was successful because I had a family that loved and supported me. The coaching staff was amazing and pushed me to new heights, Scott Moore, Nate Carr Jr., Ronnie Perry, and Rob Weikel, thank you for everything! My teammates at Lock Haven, you were not just teammates but family, we were united and supportive of one and other. These guys always had my back through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Mom and Dad your devotion to my wrestling career and the sacrifices you made to see me wrestle will never be forgotten. To Shannon, my amazing girlfriend, you were my rock through this journey. Thank you for the countless hours of travel you have devoted to watch me wrestle across the country. Lock Haven was my home and no matter where I go, I will always remember all the lessons I learned there.
Post Josh Alber Interview https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M2GewwQQQco
Kyle Shoop vs Kaid Brock https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQ7CXUQ0THg
Post All-American Interview https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpPkKiZOVu4
NCAA Team Highlight https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mDCtoJyeLuI
Hey! I'm Jude Swisher, one of the founders and co-hosts of Home Mat Advantage Wrestling Podcast. I live near State College, PA, and am a wrestler for David Taylor's M2 Training Center. I love to wrestle and listen to podcasts.