FHS’s Matt Raines accepts GMU wrestling scholarship
File Photo/Debora Franklin Johnson
Matt Raines (top) on his way to a second consecutive state title in March.
Coming from a wrestling family, the Fauquier senior knew he wanted to continue the sport in college.
There were many reasons for choosing GMU. Close proximity to my home was one. Another is that Mason offers many different majors and the wrestling team has amazing coaches that really care about each individual wrestler. I feel that I can truly reach my full potential, not only as an athlete, but also as a student.
— Matt Raines
Matt Raines also wanted to compete at a big school known for its wrestling program and its academics.
Raines made his decision about three weeks ago, choosing a university close to his Fauquier roots but far enough away to prevent him from getting distracted about home.
Raines will study at and wrestle for George Mason University.
His father Jack, an assistant coach for the Falcons’ excellent high school wrestling program, and uncle Jim, a FHS assistant principal, both wrestled - Jack in college and Jim, in high school.
Raines started as a youngster in the Fauquier Wrestling youth program, which takes athletics to tournaments up and down the East Coast.
In March, the Falcon won his second state championship, taking the 4A title at 138 pounds.
He qualified for the state tournament all four years of his high school career and took fifth place as a sophomore.
District/conference titles also added up along the way, along with three regional titles.
Other accolades include an eighth-best, all-time career wins ranking with Fauquier (157-22) and ranked fifth overall with an 87-percent winning percentage.
“He also was named MVP of the team the past two seasons,” Fauquier assistant coach and team statistician Ted Proctor said.
Yet, for all the individual achievement, Raines said his biggest enjoyment came when the Falcons won the 4A state team title in early March.
“Everybody worked hard all year which was reflected by the outcome at the end of the season,” he said.
Raines began checking out collegiate programs as soon as his senior season finished.
He took official visits to the University of Pittsburgh and Campbell University and unofficial trips to West Virginia University and American University.
Of the four schools, Raines thought Pitt would be a good fit.
But college wrestlers seldom get full scholarships. Pitt, a private institution, costs approximately $40,000 a year.
“The costs were too much for my parents,” Raines said. “I knew I needed to check out other programs.”
Then came GMU, where two other Fauquier alumni — redshirt senior Ryan Hunsberger and redshirt junior Greg Flourney — wrestle.
Flourney represented Mason at this year’s NCAA national championships.
“I talked with Greg while I was there, and he encouraged me to seriously think about George Mason,” Raines said.
Raines currently weighs 152 pounds. He said the Mason coaches have indicated they’d like him wrestle at 149 or 157 during the 2015-16 season.
“I look forward moving up in weight, to get stronger and better,” he said.
Raines made his decision after returning from Fairfax, notifying the Patriots’ wrestling coaches he’d accept their offer.
The choice didn’t come down to only money.
“There were many reasons for choosing GMU,” Raines said. “Close proximity to my home was one. Another is that Mason offers many different majors and the wrestling team has amazing coaches that really care about each individual wrestler.
The final determination came down to academics.
“I feel that I can truly reach my full potential, not only as an athlete, but also as a student," Raines said.
The partial scholarship will pay about one-third of his college costs.
That equates to a savings of about $6,500 a year off the annual tuition of $21,800.
Carrying a 3.4 GPA, Raines also hopes for academic scholarship money from Mason, as well as local grants that will go to the FHS Class of 2015.
“That would help a lot,” Raines added.
Falcons Coach Doug Fisher said he’ll miss having Raines around the program.
“Matt is without question one of the best wrestlers ever to come through Fauquier wrestling,” Fisher said. “Matt has been the backbone of the team the last three years.”
He added: “Being a scholarship athlete to a Division I school is a major accomplishment. It demonstrates that one has the ability, the work ethic, the drive, and the love of the sport needed to compete at the highest levels of our sport.”
Fisher looks forward to seeing Raines in a GMU singlet the next four or five years.
“It’s been an honor to coach Matt through his high school career, and I am very excited to see him wrestling at GMU,” Coach Fisher said. “I know I will personally miss him and I know that the team will not be the same without him.
“He is leaving a huge void in his wake.”
Fisher believes Raines eventually might coach.
“I have no doubt that Matt will be successful at GMU and will make a great coach someday,” Coach Fisher said. “In five years, my son (Sam) will be graduating Fauquier. Matt will likely be graduating GMU.
“Sounds like perfect timing!”
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