WPIAL alum Q&A with Ellwood City grad Mike Sinclair
Although wrestling isn’t as publicized as sports like football and basketball, it has always been a significant part of high-school athletics in Western Pennsylvania.
The region has produced countless grapplers who have continued their careers at the collegiate level. Among that group is Mike Sinclair, who excelled at Ellwood City and is now competing successfully at Mount Union. Sinclair is featured as this week’s WPIAL alum Q&A.
A four-year letterwinner at Ellwood City, Sinclair won 90 matches and boasted a winning percentage of .657 in his high-school career.
As a freshman in 2011-12, he was 13-12. Competing in Section 1-AA, Sinclair finished sixth at 220 pounds. The Wolverines, meanwhile, did not qualify for the team playoffs.
In 2012-13, Sinclair again concluded his season just above 500, winning 18 of his 35 bouts. He finished slightly better at sectionals, earning fifth place. As a result, he secured a spot in the WPIAL Class AA tournament, but did not place. The Wolverines qualified for the Class AA postseason, but were bounced by Mt. Pleasant in the first round.
As a junior, Sinclair became one of the most successful 220-pound wrestlers in the district. He went 33-10, and finished second in the section. He earned sixth place in the WPIAL individual tournament, but did not place at regionals. Ellwood City, meanwhile, qualified for the postseason and defeated South Allegheny in the first round. The Wolverines fell to Burrell, the eventual champion, in the quarterfinals.
In his senior campaign, Sinclair finally got over the hump at sectionals. He took the gold, courtesy of a fall against Fort Cherry’s Trevor McIntyre in the 220-pound finals. He also finished fourth in the WPIAL, but did not place at the regional. Ellwood City, however, failed to qualify for the team playoffs.
Sinclair matriculated to Mount Union, in Ohio. He moved up to the 285-pound class with the Raiders, and enjoyed a strong freshman campaign. Sinclair went 17-16, scoring a fall and a major decision. The team, meanwhile, concluded the slate with a record of 12-9, including a second-place finish in the Ohio Athletic Committee.
Last year, Sinclair finished at 15-13, and scored seven pins. The Raiders finished 8-11 overall, and fourth in the conference.
Now in his junior season, Sinclair has won eight of his first 12 matches, including four by fall and one by a major decision. Mount Union also won its first eight matches, including both of the conference tilts.
Sinclair took time away from the mat and the classroom to answer questions about his biggest area of improvement, his favorite college class, and what he’d take with him if stranded on a desert island.
What has been the biggest key to your success?
The biggest key has been putting in a lot of work in the offseasons, and getting extra mat time with our coaches. One thing that helped a lot for this season was I worked out with Grossetti Performance over the summer, and that definitely helped me get to another level.
In which areas have you improved the most since joining Mount Union?
I believe I improved most in the weight room and in neutral. I never really lifted in high school, and that was a big focal point my freshman year because I was a smaller heavyweight, because I traditionally wrestled 220 in high school. In high school, I liked wrestling on the mat; I very rarely got a takedown. Coach Malave has worked with me a lot on my feet and making me more active in neutral.
What is the biggest challenge of wrestling in the heavyweight class?
The biggest challenge I would say would be getting stronger and being able to go toe to toe with anybody. My freshman year, I started out at 230, and this year, I’m comfortably about 270 and 100 percent stronger and able to roll with the big guys.
What individual and team goals did you set prior to the season?
Individually, I want to make it to the NCAA tournament and get on the podium. As a team, our goal is to win the OAC and place top 10 at NCAA’s. Currently as a team, we are 8-0 and ranked 13th in the nation.
What led to your decision to attend Mount Union?
I choose Mount Union because it was closer to home, the facilities are up to date and extremely nice, and the team and coaches are amazing. I did a visit with my family and an overnight visit later, and the whole time I just felt like I belong there. They only knew me for a couple hours, and it already felt like I was a part of the family. After three years of being here, my team and coaches are like my second family; they are always there for me no matter what.
What is your major and ideal future profession?
I am majoring in mechanical engineering. I just had an internship at the Ellwood City Forge this past summer. It was an amazing experience, and a wonderful company to work for. I would ideally like to work for ECF out of college, or in a similar mill setting.
What has been your favorite class thus far in college?
As funny as this sounds, it would probably be my first-year seminar class. It was a magic class where we learned to do magic shows and tricks. All freshmen are put in a first-year seminar with their Raider group, where they use that class to meet fellow classmates and get acclimated to college.
What was your fondest high-school memory at Ellwood City?
Probably qualifying for states as a team my junior year. We had a great team where everyone wanted to be there and pushed each other every day in practice.
Who was the toughest opponent you ever faced in high school?
Jake Temple from Avella.
Did you compete in any other sports, and at what point did you realize wrestling was a sport you’d continue at the next level?
I played baseball up until eighth grade. I qualified for states my seventh-grade year, and at that point, I knew wrestling was what I wanted to pursue, and looking back on it, I’m glad I pursued wrestling.
Do you have any routines or superstitions before, during or after a match?
Before matches, I like to listen to music and warm up; I have four songs I have to listen to when I’m on deck.
Do you use social media often, and if so, which is your favorite?
Yes I do, and my favorite would probably be Snapchat.
If you were stranded on a deserted island, what three times would you bring?
Fishing pole, my dirt bike, a nice chair
What is a hidden talent you possess, or a little-known fact about you?
I am actually a pretty good cook. I never volunteer to cook, but I can cook some pretty good food when I have to.
Sean Meyers is a freelance writer.