Senior redshirt wrestler Darian Cruz traveled around the country this summer to help coach young wrestlers.
After winning the national championship in the 125-pound weight class last season, Cruz received support from the Lehigh community and the wrestling communities. Cruz was then contacted by multiple coaches, who asked him to share his insights with their wrestling programs.
“My summer got busy right away, with everything happening after Nationals,” Cruz said. “There were a bunch of connections right away. People would reach out to the coaches to get in contact with me.”
Cruz coached over 20 camps, beginning in Bethlehem with the Lehigh wrestling camp.
After the Lehigh camp, Cruz worked at camps in Chicago and California. Although he only worked one day in California, Cruz was flown out for three days, giving him some time to sightsee and enjoy the West Coast.
When Cruz arrived home, he immediately flew out west again for a camp in Seattle.
“It was so different,” Cruz said. “I mean the time zone was like three hours back and we were on the tip of the United States about 15 miles from Canada. That was a lot of fun.”
Cruz’s teammate senior Scott Parker accompanied Cruz on his Seattle trip. The two spent a week coaching young wrestlers.
“To young wrestlers, NCAA guys and those of us who have made it to nationals and had success are like heroes,” Parker said. “They look up to us, and it is really nice to give back and see them enjoy it so much.”
These opportunities allowed Cruz to travel, something he usually doesn’t get the chance to do. Cruz said getting to see different areas of the country also allowed him to experience other wrestling cultures.
He said the camps in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Chicago were similar to what he was used to, but the West Coast camps presented different wrestling trends and levels of knowledge.
“One thing that I noticed about all the camps that I went to was that there is a lot of different wrestling culture all around,” Cruz said. “In Washington, wrestling was not that big, so a lot of the kids didn’t know a lot about wrestling. And then out in Cali, they have a lot of girl wrestling, which was pretty cool. It really gave me an idea of how the sport is changing and evolving.”
Cruz’s brother Randy, who graduated from Lehigh in May after completing his eligibility as a wrestler, also helped out with a few camps.
“I am good with the kids, but Darian (Cruz) is just really, really good with the kids,” Randy said. “Since he is smaller, he gets to roll around with the kids. I feel like they benefit a lot when he helps out.”
Randy said that it is their responsibility as coaches to help the kids grow as wrestlers and as people.
“The fact that they know who we are and know what we have accomplished is cool,” Randy said. “They look up to us so whatever we say, whether it is good or bad, we always just try to be good examples and be respectable.”
Throughout his travels, Darian Cruz kept in mind that he was representing both Lehigh and himself.
“One of my biggest things is that I’m a really big advocate of pushing the idea of character,” Cruz said. “Being a good person on and off the mat. Being polite and respecting who you are around. That is just a big thing that I push and try to be an example of.”
After a summer of traveling, Cruz is excited to be back at Lehigh and is beginning to prep for the upcoming season. This will be his last season, but after coaching this summer, he said he hopes to come back and help coach the Lehigh wrestling program.