ASHLAND – Having finished his collegiate wrestling career as a four-time all-American, Versailles alumnus Joe Brandt is proud of his accomplishments but still feeling unsatisfied.
Brandt’s college career ended this month at the NCAA Division II national championships. He lost his opening round match on a penalty point in overtime before winning all of his matches in the consolation bracket to finish third overall in the nation – the best finish in his Ashland University career.
“Obviously my ultimate goal going into the national tournament was to win the national title,” he said. “I had a pretty good season, probably the best season I ever had.”
Brandt said he put too much pressure on himself entering the first round of the national tournament and let the nerves get to him.
“It was pretty heartbreaking,” he said. “Afterwards it was a pretty emotional time. My dad gave me a call and told me it takes more a man to go through the consolation bracket than it does to win a national championship.”
In the four hours between his first and second matches, Brandt refocused with the help of his family and coaches. He took it as a challenge to battle through the consolation bracket.
“Had a little bit of anger,” he said. “I think that helped a little bit.”
The Versailles graduate had to wrestle some of the nation’s best in the consolation bracket, and he came out on top each time.
“Even though I didn’t win it, I do believe I beat the best in my weight class,” he said.
The third place finish in the 197 pound class was the best in Brandt’s college career, topping his previous best of fifth as a junior in 2014. He finished seventh in the nation as both a freshman and sophomore.
In order to prepare for this season, Brandt red-shirted during the 2014-15 campaign. By red-shirting, he was able to help himself both athletically and academically.
The red-shirt season gave him an extra year on campus to further his studies. He plans to graduate in May with three majors: finance, business management and entrepreneurship.
It also gave him a chance to be a part of the Eagle Investment Group, a group at Ashland that performs real-world stock and portfolio analysis and manages a portfolio of approximately $1.3 million.
The red-shirt season also allowed Brandt to spend an entire year training to make himself the best wrestler he could be.
“I know that I outworked just about every person in the country,” Brandt said.
Hard work is a trait that Brandt prides himself on and is something he needed to succeed at Ashland. When he arrived on campus as a freshman, the Eagles already had a sophomore in his weight class who was a three-time state champion in high school. His coaches showed faith in him, Brandt said, which helped him earn his spot on the team and provided the motivation he needed to go on to become a four-time all-American.
“What really got me to the next level is my coaches believing in me and engraving a mindset that I could be the best in the country,” Brandt said.
Even though he didn’t achieve his goal of winning a national championship during his college career, Brandt isn’t sure even that would have made him satisfied. Unless he won every match by a pin, he’d always feel that he could have done better, he said.
“I’m absolutely not satisfied because that’s not the person I am,” he said.
After he graduates in May, Brandt plans to return home to Versailles and start working at his family business, Brandt Swine Farms. With his degrees he wants to help the company grow even more.
He had opportunities to continue in college wrestling as a graduate assistant but the family business will help give him a strong foundation for his future, which is important as he’s getting married in June 2017.
He’s not ready to give up wrestling, though, and said there’s still a chance he might pursue coaching in the future.
“My passion in life is fitness and wrestling,” he said. “I can’t abandon it.”
In the meantime Brandt thinks he might help out as a coach at Versailles or start his own gym, something to help others. He’s also planning to get into mixed martial arts and see if he can have success as a fighter.
“I’m an aggressive guy so I like the combat sports,” he said.
Whatever lies ahead for Brandt, he wants to find something he can be the best at.
“Overall I’m happy, but I still have a lot of hunger left in me,” Brandt said.