Beyond the mat: Max Mayfield strives for more after collegiate career


Photo: Huiling Wu/ Iowa State Daily

Max Mayfield is making the transition from his time in the wrestling room to his future career in the professional world. The Davenport, Iowa, native wrestled at the NCAA Championships last month and is now turning his focus toward success in engineering.

Dan Cole

Max Mayfield is going places.

Last month, he went to Des Moines to represent Iowa State at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, capping off his career as a Cyclone with a 15-15 record in his final season.

Right now, he’s a student attending graduate school as a computer engineering major in pursuit of a master’s degree in business administration.

He’s turning the page on wrestling, closing the book as a student-athlete and pursuing bigger and better things in the professional world.

“Max Mayfield has been a joy to work with, just from the standpoint of him being a student first and then an athlete,” said ISU coach Kevin Jackson, who has coached Mayfield since 2009, when he assumed his current post. “He’s been someone that’s been a leader that we’ve needed in our program, and his future is as bright as any collegiate wrestler, regardless of what they’ve accomplished on the mat. What he’s done in the classroom has allowed him to do whatever he wants to do.”

What Mayfield wants to do has yet to be narrowed down, but his goals for the future have been set high, just as they have been for everything else he’s done.


From walk-on to NCAA qualifier

When he first came to Iowa State, Mayfield didn’t plan on wrestling. As a high school senior at Davenport Central, he finished the season with a 42-2 record and a fifth-place finish at 125 pounds at the state wrestling tournament.

Despite his success in wrestling, Mayfield repeatedly told recruiters he was done with the sport and that he wanted to focus on studying engineering.

He applied and was accepted to Southern Illinois and Cornell, but opted to attend Iowa State instead since the other two schools did not offer any kind of financial assistance in the form of scholarships.

Once Mayfield arrived on campus, then-wrestling coach Cael Sanderson gave him a call.

“Cael called him up and asked him what he was doing, and he said, ‘Well, I’m here for engineering,’” said Clyde Mayfield, Max’s father, who began coaching Max at the age of 5. “[Cael] said, ‘Well, what do you think about wrestling?’ and he said, ‘I love wrestling, but that’s not what I came here for.’”

Sanderson told Max to think it over and to give him a call. Less than a week later, Max was on the team. 

“He didn’t plan on wrestling, but how do you refuse an offer from Cael Sanderson?” Clyde said.

Max stayed on the team as a walk-on and has racked up 42 career wins in a Cyclone singlet despite having missed the entire 2011-12 season due to a severe concussion. His interests, however, span far beyond wrestling.


‘Renaissance Man’

Max’s interests in both athletics and the arts led his father to give him the nickname “Renaissance Man.”

Max plays several instruments, including piano, cello, trumpet and drums. He is a cook, carpenter and volunteer. He worked for a couple years on Sundays at an Ames nursing home, helping out and making friends with residents. He also worked in the business office at his high school, impressing people with what he can accomplish in terms of clerical abilities.

“His work ethic, obviously, is pretty unmatched,” said redshirt sophomore Michael Moreno, who is also Max’s roommate. “He’s worked really hard to get where he’s at, and he’s really gifted. … He can see things that a lot of people can’t, and I think that’s going to help him.”

Before wrestling, Clyde believes baseball was Max’s first real love. Max started at second base for his high school baseball team in addition to standing out in wrestling. He also played football until ninth grade, where he played an unusual combination of quarterback and nose tackle.

Max’s wide spectrum of skills and hobbies has helped mold him into the ultimate student — one who loves learning, sets high expectations and has the will to succeed.


Turning the page

Max is in the first year of a two-year graduate degree program to earn his MBA and will move on to begin his career afterwards. He wants to go into the field of his undergraduate program: computer engineering. Max started building computers when he was 10 years old and, as his father put it, “has always been a computer guy.”

But Max said he failed to realize a potential career in computer engineering until he entered college as a civil engineering major. It was there that he discovered he did not have a passion for civil engineering as much as he did computers.

Until he completes grad school, Max will remain involved with the ISU wrestling team in some capacity which remains to be determined. His roommates are still on the team, and he’s not quite ready for the sport to be entirely removed from his life.

“It’s always been there,” Max said. “It’ll probably be a lot different not competing, but it just teaches you so many things — discipline, how to work through problems, teamwork, all of the above. I feel like it’s been invaluable to me.”

Max’s career beyond the mat has yet to be defined, but the term “success” could be found on the horizon.

“You’re talking about a young man that has so many opportunities,” Clyde said. “It’s a matter of what he wants to do, not whether or not he can do it.”