Last year around this time I wrote about startups and wrestling. You can see that post here. I am not going to revisit the company building analogies as the prior post covers them well.
Instead, the analogy of winning a national championship and an exit event are on my mind. The NCAA Division I wrestling championships were just held in St. Louis on March 15, 16 and 17th. Although not able to attend in person this year, I did watch a lot of the action on TV and ESPN3. My kids (10 and 6) also love to watch wrestling for some reason so they got their large doses as well. Anyway, the NCAA championship tournament is both a team competition and an individual competition. There are 10 weight classes (from 125 pounds up to heavy weight, which is basically big guys in the 240 to 270 pound range). Last year, Cornell had one individual champion (Kyle Dake at 149 pounds) and came in second to Penn State in the overall team standings.
Winning a team championship or multiple individual championships in the same year makes winning the startup success game look……well…..almost easy. This year, Cornell scored more points in the team standings than ever before in the history of Cornell wrestling. And Cornell only got 4th place in the team competition. The competition is just intense (like startups). No one was disappointed, but in retrospect you have better odds of getting a company to a successful exit than winning a team championship!! The competition is astounding and the necessity for an overall team effort from the entire team is critical. Sounds familiar. Penn State won the team title again this year because just about all their wrestlers went deep in the tournament and got points for the team. All oars pulling hard. Really an incredible feat for Penn State. They dominated all around. The same way the best of the best can dominate in the startup world and eventually mature into a powerhouse public company (think Apple or Google).
Cornell had 3 individual champions (Steve Bosak at 184 pounds, Cam Simaz at 197 pounds and Kyle Dake at 157 pounds). Steve Bosak beat a Penn State wrestler to whom he previously lost 3 times. Cam was ranked number 1 going in and proved why! And Kyle, who was also ranked number 1, is the first wrestler in NCAA history to win championships in 3 different weight classes (freshman year at 141, sophomore year at 149 and junior year at 157; next year should be BIG for him too). So, Cornell had 3 individual champions. So did Penn State. The second and third place teams only had 1 each. Having multiple individual champions is like getting to an IPO or big acquisition exit!
The road to the NCAA wrestling tournament is grueling. The fall individual season, followed by the winter team dual meets, followed by spring regionals and then nationals. Constantly getting whacked around, constantly training hours and hours a day, and constantly enduring ups and downs. Sounds like a startup. Sounds like being an entrepreneur. Truly grueling at times, but the rewards can be unbelievable!
If you are in the mood for some inspiration, check out these videos of interviews with the Cornell champions, coaches and teammates.
CONGRATS to Cornell wrestling!! Awesome job getting your IPO.