Mother knows best, so the saying goes. For Will Lewan, that saying is reality.
“My mom had me (wrestle), starting in fourth grade,” he said. “She thought it’d be a good way for me to become a better athlete for football.”
That was how Michigan’s top 2018 wrestling commit first stepped onto the mat.
That was back when he was 10 years old. Four years later, in eighth grade, he quit football to focus entirely on wrestling. In ninth grade, he wasn’t just on the varsity team: he finished fourth in the state. Now, as a senior at Montini Catholic High School in Lombard, Ill., he’s the top-ranked 152-pounder in the country according to FloWrestling.
“(A scholarship) was always a goal in my mind, but I never really thought it was gonna happen until my freshman year of high school,” Lewan said. “My coach just worked us so hard, and I improved so much that freshman year that I felt like I could do anything.”
By last summer, a scholarship was an inevitability. Lewan had his pick of the lot – offers from Michigan, Cornell, Iowa State, North Carolina, Northwestern, Oklahoma State and Stanford. When he visited Ann Arbor, however, the choice was obvious.
“Being there, it just felt more and more like this was the place where I wanted to spend the next four years,” Lewan said. “It kind of grew on me as I was there.”
He narrowed the initial list down to Michigan, North Carolina and Stanford, then announced he would become a Wolverine on Sept. 18.
A pending college decision wasn’t the only thing on Lewan’s mind this September, though. Earlier in the month, he traveled to Athens, Greece with the U.S. national team for the 2017 Cadet World Championships.
In the final round of that tournament, Lewan faced Azerbaijan’s Daud Ibragimov. The two had a point each as the match reached its climax. Then, Lewan drove Ibragimov to the edge of the mat. The two grappled there for 10 seconds or so before Lewan found enough leverage to get his hands around Ibragimov and take him down, ending the match. He swaggered off and was given an American flag, which he draped around his shoulders to carry triumphantly around the mat.
“I felt proud to represent my country and really show that I became the best because, for my age and weight, I was the best for that moment,” Lewan said. “I felt like all my work had just paid off.”
Lewan knew it was for real when he looked at his phone and saw a barrage of notifications. “Probably half my contacts, at least,” sent congratulatory messages, Lewan told the Daily. Not to mention the barrage of Instagram followers, which now number upwards of 2,400.
There was also a Michigan connection in Greece. Sean Bormet, an assistant coach on the Wolverines’ wrestling team, was one of three coaches for the U.S. team. The athletic communications department couldn’t make Bormet available for this story because Lewan hasn’t officially signed with Michigan. However, he noted that familiarity with Bormet “helped with why I went to Michigan.”
Athens isn’t the only involvement Lewan has with USA Wrestling either. He was asked to attend school at the Olympic training center in Colorado Springs this year, but decided to stay in Lombard.
“I feel like I could get just as good with my coach here as I could there,” Lewan said.
The 2020 Olympics are a long way off, but the invitation could be an indicator that Lewan is on a fast track to Tokyo.
If one thing shone about Lewan, however, it was focus. He still has a season to go in high school to get better, defend titles, and dominate – a season that won’t go to waste.
“In wrestling, it’s all up to you and how much you want it and how hard you’ve worked,” Lewan said. “You can control that in the match. In other sports, like baseball, you gotta count on the rest of your team to do it. You don’t get to physically take what you want.”