Photo: Rock Island graduate Tyree Overton, now at St. Cloud State, is 7-1 in his senior season and seven wins shy of 100 for his career. He was a two-time Junior College All-American at Lincoln College.
-St. Cloud State University
There were days at the end of his high school wrestling career that Rock Island graduate Tyree Overton thought his days on the mat were over.
An injury his senior year kept Overton from making it to the Illinois High School Association state finals and he had very little interest from colleges around the nation.
Overton is sure glad he didn’t give up.
Midway through his redshirt senior season at St. Cloud State, Overton is en route to wrapping up a stellar college wrestling career.
“The best I did in high school was a state alternate my senior year,” Overton said. “I was ranked as high as fourth or fifth in the state but I was in a tough bracket in sectionals and I was injured with a partially torn meniscus.
“I knew I still wanted to wrestle, and I knew I was going to have to take the hard way. I had two junior college offers and I finally picked Lincoln.”
At Lincoln, Overton captured a pair of Junior College All-American finishes and caught the eye of the St. Cloud coaching staff. Overton believes his career took off 150 or so miles away from home.
“It was kind of out in the middle of nowhere and that forced me to concentrate and work hard every day,” he said. “I stayed focused and I had two great coaches in my two years. Nothing against my Rocky coaches, they were great, but these guys pushed me to another level.
“I had Dave Klemm, who was an alternate in the Olympics the year the USA boycotted, and then I had Daryl Thomas who was ranked really high as a wrestler at the University of Illinois.
“They really stayed on me and it always felt like it was Division I room. They got our wrestlers ready for the next level. I ended up being a two-time All-American, taking eighth in the nation as a freshman and third as a sophomore.”
Overton saw his biggest jump from his first season to the second when he learned a lot more about being an elite college wrestler.
“That first year as a freshman, I needed to get my mindset together,” Overton said. “I didn’t handle my weight very well. I bumped up a weight the next year and that’s when it became something big for me and my future.
“I chose St. Cloud State because I knew they were good and they would push me further. They have won four of the last five NCAA Division II national championships.”
Following his third-place finish, he understood more about winning. Now that he is at St. Cloud, he knows what winning is all about. The Huskies have not lost a conference meet since 2010.
Overton fell just shy of making the NCAA Division II All-America list, again stymied by that same knee.
“I completely tore the meniscus off,” Overton said. “The doctors told me I needed surgery and to not wrestle, but I did and I made it to the nationals and was one win from making the All-American match.”
The injury and rehab helped Overton make a decision to redshirt last school year where he was able to put in a lot of school work to catch up for some credits that did not transfer from Lincoln to St. Cloud State.
He still wrestled unattached and went 15-1, winning five tournaments during the season. He is back healthy, wrestling at 184 pounds and off to a great senior start.
“I’m 7-1 so far this season and currently ranked No. 3 in the nation,” he said. “My only loss is to a nationally-ranked D-1 guy from Northern Iowa and I beat the top-ranked guy in D-II earlier this year.
“I’m at 93 college wins right now and getting to 100 would mean a lot. Having gone from a guy who didn’t even qualify for a state meet in high school to having 100 college wins is amazing.”
The trip from Rock Island to Lincoln to St. Cloud has certainly been worth it.
“There were times when I wondered if I was good enough to wrestle at any college,” he said. “Now, to be wrestling for the best Division II team in the nation says something.
“I think it was believing and having great coaches who pushed me to the next level. To think, I didn’t even start wrestling until I was a freshman at Rocky and never even took it serious until I was a sophomore. This is pretty good.”