On a holiday weekend, Max Dean added another reason to celebrate.
The nationally-ranked junior from Lowell High School in Michigan gave a commitment to Cornell University on Saturday night.
“It was really just time,” Dean said. “I was clear on what I wanted and I didn’t want to lead any other schools on – I wanted to be straightforward with everyone in the recruiting process. Cornell is an incredible atmosphere to wrestle in and go to school in and I want to be a part of it. I knew I wanted to be with my family.”
Indeed, Max Dean will join his older brother Gabe, a 2015 national champion for the Big Red and his father, David, who is the Finger Lakes Wrestling Club RTC Director in Ithaca.
A few weeks ago, the straight-A student spent time with his family at the NCAA championships in St. Louis, an event that reinforced his desire to join the Big Red.
“I was so proud of my brother [Gabe],” Dean said. “He accomplished one of his dreams and it was incredible to be there. Every time I’ve gone to NCAAs, I’ve thought that I wanted to be a champion there someday. Watching Gabe do it – it seemed so much more real. I was thinking -- I want to do that in a few years. I’m excited to go to a place like Cornell that will give me that opportunity.”
During the national tournament, Gabe Dean said that a piece of advice from Max – “Don't ever take the opportunity to compete for granted -- it's a privilege,” was essential to his success this season.
It’s something Max Dean understood all too well this year. He had a standout 10th grade campaign for Lowell in 2013-14 in which he captured a state championship at 171 pounds, helped the Red Arrows to a team crown and took fifth at the FloNationals.
“Winning the state title as a sophomore was something I was proud of,” Dean said. “I was gearing up for a big junior year.”
Before wrestling season began, Dean starred on the gridiron, playing running back and safety for Lowell. In the process, he suffered an injury that, at the time, didn’t slow him down.
“About halfway through the year, I banged up my wrist,” he said. “It was during a game, and I’m not even sure exactly what happened. It didn’t feel too bad, so I taped it up and played. But after the season was over, my wrist wasn’t getting any better. The problem wasn’t going away. I got an X-ray and found out I had broken a small bone.”
Dean had surgery in December and was told there was a “slight chance” he’d be able to wrestle towards the end of the season.
“I did everything I could to try to get back,” he said. “I was still going to practice, running, lifting for my legs – doing everything I could to stay in shape. I went around with the team and tried to give them support.”
But at the beginning of February, the doctor told him that he wouldn’t be able to recover in time to compete.
“I was really devastated. It stung for a long time,” he said. “There were short term goals I knew I wouldn’t get a chance to achieve. But I was so happy to see my team win the state title again and all the things they accomplished. I was really happy for first-year head coach R.J. Boudro. I just wish I could have been more involved.”
He’s still anxiously awaiting his return to the mat, adding that he will begin physical therapy in a few weeks and is probably “two to three months away from wresting again.”
When he does return, Dean has quite a few things in mind.
“I’m looking to win another state title individually and as a team,” he said. “And I want to go to tournaments like FloNationals and take home titles at those too.”
The 11th ranked wrestler at 170 pounds in the country according to FloWrestling, Dean is certainly capable of big things as a senior.
His brother no doubt agrees. In an interview last summer, Gabe Dean spoke highly of Max’s wrestling prowess.
“Max is basically already ahead of me in high school,” Gabe said in 2014. “As an older brother, it’s fun to watch. I cheer him on. He’s a talented kid. I think he’s like me - no need to peak in high school; do that in college. He’s a really hard worker. It’s fun for me to watch him grow as a wrestler and as a person. He’ll outdo me in high school, no doubt. He’s on the right track.”
That track will eventually lead to Ithaca, where Max, a likely college 184 pounder, said he’s “so excited to see what happens next.”
“I love playing football, but my passion is definitely wrestling,” he said. “I like to go out and wrestle hard the whole match and leave it all out there. I like to wrestle a high pace and create a lot of pressure. I missed a year of high school wrestling, but I can’t do anything about that now. I know I’m really excited to wrestle in college. I think that’s where my best years of wrestling will be.”
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