Growing up 30 miles north of Iowa City, Iowa, in a wrestling family, guaranteed that Chance Shelton would become a University of Iowa fan.
Shelton attended the Hawkeyes’ wrestling camps, where he grappled in Iowa’s wrestling room. His father, Lance, was on the Hawkeyes Wrestling Club board and knows legendary coach Dan Gable. He dreamed of some day becoming a Hawkeye.
Yet there was a moment, on his official visit to the University of Illinois, when the Harvard senior considered how he might look in navy and orange.
The Fighting Illini made a favorable impression on Shelton, a Class 1A state qualifier for the Hornets last year. But he still had a visit to his former home state. Once there, Hawkeyes coach Tom Brands and assistant Ryan Morningstar gave him the tour, and Shelton was sold.
He will sign his NCAA national letter of intent Wednesday at the high school.
“[Wrestling at Iowa] has been a goal since the third grade when I went to camps and worked out in their room,” said Shelton, who grew up in Mount Vernon, Iowa, and moved to Harvard six years ago.
Shelton, a senior, wrestled at 126 pounds for Harvard last season and was 27-10. He will become the first Hornets wrestler longtime Harvard coach Tim Haak has had to earn an NCAA Division I scholarship.
“That’s exciting,” Shelton said. “It’s an honor. I don’t know how to describe it. My family has always been there for me helping me out.”
Haak thinks Shelton, who has played football in the fall and competed in track and field in the spring, has massive potential to improve at the next level.
“We want our best athletes involved in all sports at Harvard,” Haak said. “He’s a three-sport athlete, and now he’ll go to working on wrestling about 300 days a year. There will be intense workouts. Maybe not being a year-round guy in high school he won’t have burnout. He’s a tremendous competitor, and I really feel his best wrestling days are ahead of him.”
Shelton said the Iowa coaches plan on him redshirting as a freshman, although college wrestlers still have opportunities to compete unattached in tournaments.
“I’ll have about 300 days a year instead of 80 or 100,” Shelton said. “That will be tripling what I’ve done in high school.”
Lance Shelton helped Haak land Gable to speak at Harvard’s 50th anniversary celebration of the wrestling program in 2009, which proved an extra special moment for Chance Shelton.
“He’s wanted to be a Hawkeye all his life,” Haak said. “I’m happy for him to have that opportunity.”
• Joe Stevenson is a senior sports writer for the Northwest Herald. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow him on Twitter @nwh_JoePrepZone.