These are Borrelli's words on his wrestling hero:. I'm a little bit older than John, but I got to watch him from the time he was in middle school.
His middle school coach was the head coach at Clemson when I was an assistant. That's where John ended up going to high school. It's amazing how much that guy improved. Absolutely amazing how much that guy improved. I saw him when he was in high school at Junior Nationals his senior year, maybe his junior year.
He took fourth and there were three guys from Oklahoma who finished ahead of him in his weight class. I don't think people remember that. I think I'm right on that. The next year he was in the finals and he lost to Jim Jordan and then he took a redshirt year and won the World Championships and the rest is history.
He was very, very talented, don't get me wrong. He could do things with his body naturally. He had unbelievable flexibility in his hips and his knees. Until he took that redshirt year — I don't know that I ever saw him shoot a low single. He was a slide-by guy. He was a shuck guy. He was a single-leg guy when he would attack your hips. He was a high-crotch guy. The other thing people don't realize about him is he was as good on top as anywhere. He was really, really good on top.
His first few years coaching I think he'll tell you that he inherited a great situation and didn't do that well with it. I think he was really, really hard on people. He expected people to have the same mentality as him and I think he has developed as a coach as much as he has developed as an athlete. He stays pretty even-keeled.
We beat them at a dual meet one year at Virginia Duals. He might have only had one All-American. Three or four years later they won the national championships. He's been really steady. He found out on a Zoom call. He had absolutely no inkling something like that was going to happen. He was really, really devastated. Over the course of two or three days — once the word got out there that Stanford was dropping wrestling — he got a number of calls from coaches and most of those calls were people asking to talk to his top kids about transferring.
There were a lot of coaches reaching out to him to basically cherry-pick his team. John called him and didn't talk to him about any of his kids transferring. He basically said, 'You have to keep all the kids there. I want to help you save the program. We can't let the program get dropped. It's too important to wrestling in the west. How can I help you? Do not let any of those kids leave.
The story below was published Thursday on trackwrestling.