Alex Elsea's cell phone rang but he didn't recognize the number and almost didn't answer the call.
"I thought it was a telemarketer," the McCallie wrestler said.
Instead it was Duke wrestling coach Glen Lanham offering a spot on the Blue Devils' wrestling team.
"I had talked with earlier last fall and he said he had quite a few 125s he was looking at and I didn't hear anything else," Elsea said.
After that conversation Elsea began exploring other options. He thought about Division III University of Chicago -- academic aid money was available -- and he also investigated Richmond and Vanderbilt.
"I probably would have wound up at Wake Forest or Emory," he said.
He didn't have to make that choice.
As he explored collegiate options, he won his second state championship and was named to the USA Wrestling All-America team. That prompted an email from one of the Duke assistants saying he'd love to see Elsea at the nationals.
"That was out though because I had suffered a deep knee bruise in the state semis so competing three weeks after that was really out of the question. I told them I'd be happy to send them some video and honors I had received and that I felt confident I could wrestle at the Division I level," he said.
A week later he got the call from Lanham.
"It's obviously a great opportunity school-wise," McCallie coach Mike Newman said. "Lanham is a good wrestling coach and also a good person. He was at [Tennessee] wrestling and then went to Oklahoma State when Tennessee dropped its program."
Newman already has suggested to Elsea that he get in a weight room and into a college-type wrestling atmosphere as soon as possible.
"Alex is a very flexible wrestler and he has natural strength but as all high school guys find out it's going to be extremely competitive when you go into a college program," the coach said. "Between academics and Division I wrestling it's a challenge, but Alex is good about organizing things and meeting challenges so I think it's a great fit for him. He's going to have to get in the weight room and put on some size. With college guys there is a different level of strength."
Contact Ward Gossett at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-886-4765.
Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...