Academics derailed Welch before. He wrestled for Salem as a freshman and sophomore, but he was ineligible as a junior and senior.
“I just wasn’t a good student and I couldn’t put the pieces together,” said Welch. “I was very upset because wrestling was my passion and I wasn’t able to do it. Then I started getting into trouble.”
But Welch got a break when Tilton accepted him to a program for low-achieving, high-potential students.
“When I went there to tour the campus, I felt there was no way I could get in, but they gave me a second chance,” he said. “I got a lot of extra help. There were other students who were behind and there was a lot of structure, which I needed.”
In two years at Tilton, Welch said he got his grades up to a 3.0 GPA while thriving on the mat. His two-year record was 66-5 and he placed seventh at Prep nationals.
The combination of academic structure and his involvement in wrestling turned things around for Welch.
“Wrestling has completely changed the way I am,” he said. “It keeps me focused, keeps me involved and makes me realize what I have to do to be successful and not go back to my old ways.”
But old habits can sometimes be hard to break. Although he was eligible for the entire season at Roger Williams, it was just barely. His grade-point average was just 1.75 (1.70 is required) and he needed to take an extra course to remain eligible.
“The first semester was tough,” admitted Welch, who works out at Smitty’s Barn in the offseason and is good friends with ex-Timberlane great Zach Bridson. “There was so much reading and I’m not a good reader.
“Plus, I didn’t know the importance of meeting with my teachers. I’m doing that now and I think I’ll do a lot better the rest of the year.