Schalles winner Hendrickson took on lighter wrestler’s mentality to lead college wrestling in pins

Updated: May 18, 2022

Photo: Wyatt Hendrickson’s 18th fall of a 26-2 season came at the 2022 NCAAs where he used a front headlock to take down and pin Michael McIlreavy of The Citadel.

Note: This is the first part of the full-length feature on Wyatt Hendrickson, college wrestling’s top pinner in 2021-22 who has been announced as WIN’s Schalles Award winner. Click on the subscription link or call 888.305.0606 to get an annual 12-month subscription to WIN started either print or digitally with the May issue to read the remainder of the article on how Hendrickson got to be a pinner and the mindset that goes into consistently pinning some of the top guys in the country.

By Mike Finn

Click on the cover of the latest issue of WIN Magazine or call 888-305-0606 to subscribe.

Wyatt Hendrickson may be an NCAA Division I wrestler for the Air Force Academy, but he takes on a smaller-athlete mentality when it comes to pinning his opponents.

“A lot of the heavyweights don’t wrestle like lighter guys,” said the junior from Newton, Kan. “What I found to be successful this year has been the cradle. When big guys stand up, no one ever cradles them. But I see the cradle and I go for it. That’s probably how half of my pins happened this year.”

While compiling a 26-2 record this past winter, the 240-pound Falcon flattened 18 of his victims; the most by any Division I wrestler. Hendrickson has been named the winner of the 2022 Schalles Award.

“I can’t think of many wrestlers I admire more than Wyatt Hendrickson,” said Schalles, the namesake of the award and who is America’s greatest pinner after pinning 109 foes between 1970-74 when he also won two NCAA championship for Clarion. Schalles sees a similar mindset in Hendrickson.

“From a stellar high school career to where he is now, at Air Force, the man is all that’s right with our sport, and our country,” Schalles added. “Wyatt led the nation all season in pins in one of the strongest weight classes we had this year. His mindset is one of a warrior. He’s powerful, explosive and as I watched him this season, he finishes every match as strong as he starts.”

Of his 18 pins this winter, 13 occurred in the first period.

“I was dominant in most of those matches,” said the 6-foot-2 Hendrickson. “Most of the time, if I saw the opportunity, I didn’t wait.”