Collegiate athletic eligibility comes and goes. Once time is up, an athlete’s ability to compete in the NCAA competition is finished.
King Sandoval wasn’t ready to give up on his time with Maryland wrestling despite initially deciding to move on when the Waldorf native graduated last spring.
Sandoval held down the 125 and 133 pound weight classes during his time in a Maryland singlet and saw success competing at 133 pounds last season.
He posted a 3-1 mark at the 2022 Virginia Duals, and earned two victories in Big Ten play by fall against Indiana and Ohio State in the same weekend. Sandoval also collected two more pins in out-of-conference duals, against Drexel and Duke in a doubleheader.
But his season would end prematurely. Sandoval suffered a pair of losses at the Big Ten Championships, ending his season short of a chance at a NCAA championships appearance.
Sandoval then graduated, seemingly having moved on after four years with the Terps. But after spending time in the workforce away from school and wrestling after graduation, he came to the realization that he wasn’t ready to move on.
“I initially wanted to come back next year,” Sandoval said. “But the way that my eligibility works is that it’s a running clock. So I initially had two years of eligibility left including the entirety of this year.”
[Jaron Smith played a role in both of Maryland wrestling’s Big Ten wins — seven years apart]
Not wanting to waste a year of eligibility sitting idly on the sidelines, Sandoval rejoined the team over this university’s winter break with the approval of coach Alex Clemsen.
“He called me and said that he was, you know, thinking that maybe he made a mistake by jumping into the workforce,” Clemsen said. “He had a COVID year and wanted my blessing to rejoin the team, some point in the summer [of 2023]. And I said, ‘you can have my blessing right now.’”
Sandoval made his season debut back with the Terps against Rutgers, dropping his 133 pound bout to Rutgers’ No. 16 Joe Heilmann by a 12-0 major decision. Despite the defeat in his return, Maryland was still hopeful Sandoval could provide a spark for the Terps at the second-lightest weight class in collegiate wrestling.
Maryland has had its struggles all season long at 133 pounds. Between Jackson Cockrell and Conner Quinn, the Terps have only collected one win at that weight class. Cockrell won the lone bout at Maryland’s quad meet against Bloomsburg to open the season.
[Maryland wrestling falls to No. 1 Penn State in final regular season Big Ten match, 44-3]
With veteran leadership back in the fold in the lower weight classes, Clemsen is already seeing the influence Sandoval is having.
“He’s only been in the room for, you know, a couple of weeks … I’m sure he’s going to have an impact on his teammates,” Clemsen said. “He’s a good kid, he’s bright. He gives us a puncher’s chance to get a fall every night”
Sandoval has yet to taste victory, dropping decisions in his first three appearances. Alongside his loss against Rutgers, Sandoval has dropped bouts in Maryland’s loss to Penn State and Maryland’s win against Purdue.
But after being back in the room for just a couple of months, Sandoval is slowly getting back up to speed. With two duals remaining before postseason play, Sandoval is relishing the opportunity to compete again.
“It was definitely one of the most challenging things, coming back after being off of the mat for so long,” Sandoval said. “Not a specific goal in mind. But, I mean, at this point in time, I got nothing to lose. So I think that’s what makes it most dangerous for someone to go out there.”