Geoffrey Alexander is set to compete at the NCAA Championships later this week against the country's best wrestlers at the world's most famous arena, Madison Square Garden. This is his senior season, his last go-round. Alexander started at 133 pounds as a true freshman and has now qualified for the NCAA Championships in each of his four years as a starter.
"I've been doing this for 18 years," Alexander told me by phone on his way to New York City. "I'm going to let it fly. I'm going to have some fun and really enjoy the moment."
While head coach Kerry McCoy and the Terps wish that they had more than just one wrestler competing at the NCAA Championships, there is no one on this team that is a better representative and ambassador of Maryland wrestling than Geoffrey Alexander. "He represents the roller coaster ride we've gone through the last couple of years," McCoy said.
I've watched Geoffrey Alexander grow up at Maryland. He was still just a kid when he came to College Park. When I see him now, I see an extraordinary young man. Alexander has faced adversity both big and small and has developed into the kind of man and student-athlete that this program and the University of Maryland can and should be proud of.
Despite his very successful season, Alexander acknowledged that it won't be easy to place in the top eight and get on the podium in the Big Apple. "It's going to take everything that I have. I feel great right now. I'm ready."
McCoy, a two-time national champion and three-time All-American during his collegiate wrestling career at Penn State, said the goal for Alexander is simple. "It's all about getting your hand raised...You just have to be one point better than your competition...I know Geoff's capable of doing it [becoming an All-American]."
Alexander told me that his confidence level is high and that he'll be okay with whatever happens as long as he gives it his all on the mat. "I'm going to wrestle hard for seven minutes." If Alexander places in the top eight this week and earns All-American honors, it would bring an infusion of luster and optimism to Maryland wrestling, a program that has struggled in the both the regular season and postseason in the last couple of years.
Alexander certainly has a path to become an All-American, but there are no easy outs at the NCAA's. His first match will be against Northern Illinois' Austin Eicher. Eicher, a redshirt freshman, has gotten hot at the right time and won the MAC title as the sixth seed. If Alexander can get past Eicher, he'll face a very tough but familiar opponent in No. 3 Zane Richards of Illinois.
In a city that is all about working hard and dreaming big, Geoffrey Alexander has a chance to burnish his legacy at Maryland. And what would standing on that podium on Saturday night mean to Alexander?
"It is a life-long dream to be an All-American. It would be one of the highlights of my life."