Jun. 24—Boo Lewallen will have turned 25 when the 2021-22 college wrestling season begins in November.
At that age, many college graduates would have already been several years into their career, perhaps even starting a second or third job out of college.
But for Lewallen, after wrestling for most of his life, he is hopeful that he will have started his first post-college job.
He had the chance to spend yet another year at Oklahoma State due to the NCAA granting athletes an extra year of eligibility due to the pandemic. But having spent more than half a decade in college, prolonged by several injuries that led to him getting medical hardship this past season, Lewallen made the tough — but also easy — decision to hang up his wrestling shoes.
Lewallen, who arrived in Stillwater in 2015 as a three-time state champion out of Yukon, had so many reasons to move on, but only a few to remain in wrestling.
In an exclusive interview with the News Press, Lewallen expressed there was one reason in particular that made the decision somewhat easy. And the advice came from a legend in the sport of wrestling — Cowboy wrestling coach John Smith.
“He was like, ‘If you want to continue to train, you have the opportunity to,’ and I wouldn’t want to train anywhere else than Oklahoma State,” Lewallen said. “He said, ‘If you’re heart’s not in it, you probably shouldn’t do it.’ And that’s ultimately kind of where the decision was made for me. …
“Whenever I came to college, it was a desire to be the best, and I was willing to sacrifice everything to become that. So when making this decision, I was weighing my options, where was my head and am I willing to really do what it takes to achieve those goals that I would be chasing? I came to the conclusion that my head and my heart weren’t gonna be fully in it, and I’m not gonna waste my time or anybody else’s time by sticking around.”
Smith has been one of the biggest supporters of Lewallen throughout his injury-riddled, but still All-American career with the Cowboys.
The OSU wrestling coach often made the comment that if he had suffered some of the injuries Lewallen battled through while at Oklahoma State, the two-time Olympic gold medalist would have quit the sport.
Instead, Lewallen will leave competing after an All-American season that wasn’t derailed by any major injury.
And that’s an aspect that also settled well with Lewallen.
Many athletes have the decision made for them due to career-ending injuries. And having gone through surgeries that very well could have ended his career had he not been determined to return to the mat, being able to walk away as healthy as he can be stuck in his mind.
“If you’re going to go to the senior level, and I were to have an injury or something else happens along those lines while I’m competing at the senior level, it’s a little bit different than whenever I’m in college,” Lewallen said. “Maybe the surgeries are paid, for but then that puts me down from training and that’s my income (at the senior level). With the sport of wrestling, it makes it a little bit harder at the senior level trying to maintain an income while hopefully staying healthy and trying to be the best in the world.”
With that also in mind, Lewallen said there was never much of a desire to follow some of the recent Cowboy wrestlers who are beginning careers in mixed martial arts.
He said he’s looking forward to continue following the budding careers of his former teammates Kyle Crutchmer, Jacobe Smith and Nick Piccinnini, but it was never an avenue he was considering after wrestling.
“It’s not like that training is any easier,” Lewallen said. “Those guys dedicated their lives to that and I have all the respect for all of them for dedicating their lives to it and sacrificing a lot of things to have the opportunities that they have now.”
Lewallen hasn’t completely removed himself from wrestling, though.
He and his girlfriend have moved to Edmond, where he is working to get certified as a mortgage loan originator. And while studying for that, he’s working with the Edmond North freestyle program.
In fact, he admitted his longterm goal has wrestling returning to being a significant part of his life once again down the road.
“Once I get enough income and kind of do this on my own, hopefully I can have my own wrestling academy,” Lewallen said. “Longterm, that’s the goal, but short-term, I’m just focused on this test and getting into the new industry.”
He also won’t be completely devoid of getting his wrestling fix.
Having grown up going to Oklahoma State wrestling duals, and having taken part in his fair share the past six years, he intends to return to the stands of Gallagher-Iba Arena as often as possible.
“I still have some of my best friends on that team and a few of my closest friends that came to college with me — like Nick Piccinnini, who is fighting (in MMA) now,” Lewallen said. “… That’s how it is at Oklahoma State, it’s a family that will never turn their back on you, that relationship is always going to be there. I’ll always be right down the road from Stillwater, so we’ll be in touch with those guys for sure.”
But to Lewallen, the family also extends beyond his coaches, teammates and former Cowboy wrestlers who are still invested in the program.
For him, that family also extends to the devoted fans who lifted him up through all the peaks and valleys of his college career.
“I just want to thank them for the support,” Lewallen said. “Now I’m going to be that fan that supports these upcoming guys and the guys that are on the team right now. The fans and the support we get from alumni, that’s what makes the program special, and it’s gonna continue to be special and it’s going to continue to be great.”
“I came to the conclusion that my head and my heart weren’t gonna be fully in it, and I’m not gonna waste my time or anybody else’s time by sticking around.”
Former Oklahoma State wrestler