Lehigh All-American Max Wessell founds InXAthlete, helping athletes find jobs and employers find athletes

By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling | Oct. 09, 2017, 11:35 a.m. (ET)
Hey, athletes! Former Lehigh All-American heavyweight wrestler Max Wessell would like to help you find the best job to fit your career.

Hey, employers! Wessell would also like to help you find a qualified and motivated athlete to work/intern for your company.

Wessell, a Boulder, Colo. native who was an All-American at the 2016 NCAA Championships for Lehigh, is co-founder of InXAthlete, which is developing an online portal where athletes can find great jobs and employers can find great employees with an athletic background.

His business partner is former Lehigh lacrosse player Cody Ferraro from Long Island, N.Y., who also has a strong connection to wrestling as the son of long-time Ward Melville High School wrestling coach Kurt Ferraro.

“Cody and I had a class together freshman year. Cody doesn’t look like a lacrosse player, actually he is a little bit bigger, and looks more like a wrestler. We were in school, and I thought, who is this tough guy? He looked like he was 35 years old as a freshman. We were both freshman in a high-level senior course, so we stuck together in that class and started talking. Cody is from a wrestling family and had a passion for wrestling, so we bonded over that. We ended up being closer friends throughout the years, and ended up living together the last two years of college,” said Wessell.

At Lehigh, Wessell was a business and marketing major, while Ferraro studied history and political science, and studied educational technology in the Lehigh Masters program. Ferraro found an interest in technology during his Masters studies. The idea of founding a job site for athletes was first generated as they went through the process of trying to find good jobs after graduation. The light bulb came on as they started to develop their own careers.

“Initially, we had no idea how to bring it to fruition. The original idea was to help student-athletes find jobs. It slowly evolved into what is currently InXAthlete. Along the way was a lot of research. One of the things we realized was that there was a broader spectrum than just recruiting and placement,” said Wessell.

There are already many examples of corporations and businesses that seek student-athletes as employees. Companies such as Enterprise, Amazon, and Wells Fargo have found success recruiting athletes into their business. Through the development process, InXAthlete discovered research suggesting 65% of employers prefer athletes as employees and 56% of female executives were athletes in college. The challenge is helping the student-athletes and the employers find each other.

“There is a specialization, a growth of niche markets, within online industries. For instance, EBay is running into a lot of competition from EBays for only home goods or EBays for only power tools. People want a specialized approach to things today. We took a look at the recruiting and placement market where the current solutions are Indeed, Monster or CareerBuilder.com, which are all-in-one packages. There are no specialized or niche recruiting platforms until you get into the executive level,” said Wessell.

The team of Wessell and Ferraro put their different experiences and perspectives together, seeking to fill a niche in the market. Both understand why athletes make successful employees.

Wessell comes from a strong individual sports background. His father Buck Wessell was a champion judo athlete, and served as the Olympic Team Leader for judo at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Wessell was a high school state champion wrestler in Colorado, and became an All-American for one of the top wrestling programs at the college level.

“It comes from the pressure that one goes through being on the wrestling mats, being under the lights and just you being responsible for winning or losing. It is a combination of things, the pressure you place on yourself, the pressure others place on you, the pressure from the coaches and alumni. Once you experience that in wrestling, there is nothing in business that will be remotely daunting. I didn’t have to think twice about it. Wrestling truly taught me how to not worry about the pressure or the expectations that others may have, but just to focus on getting the work done,” said Wessell.

Ferraro understood individual sports from being in a wrestling family, but also brings a team sport approach based upon his career in lacrosse.

“My journey was different, especially being in a team sport. Everybody pretty much has a job and if everyone does their job, the machine keeps going. The self-accountability factor and the team factor translates perfectly into business, because if you don’t do your specific job and don’t hone in on your specific process, then there is a gear that is missing in that machine that is your business,” said Ferraro.

Both understand how athletes are faced with adversity and must find a way to win regardless of the challenges they face. For Ferraro, that perspective was created dealing with injuries, a challenge that Wessell also faced at Lehigh.

“I battled injuries my entire career. I had about five surgeries while I was at Lehigh, including ACL, back surgery, and wrist surgery. The challenge that I was given was working back into the starting lineup after surgery and rehab. The values that the team brought, and that athletics brought, are the no-surrender attitude and the goal-setting attitude. That is prevalent in the whole student-athlete community. It’s about setting those goals, and tirelessly working towards those goals. That is something we can hone on in the process, setting a plan to work towards those goals,” said Ferraro.

Voila! InXAthlete.com has been founded.

Wessell and Ferraro based their company in Boulder, Colo. and are building the business by reaching out to a number of different communities.

First is motivating current and former student-athletes to register with InXAthlete, creating a profile for employers to see and also using a job board from companies seeking athletes. The service is completely free for student-athletes to use in order to market themselves.

Click here to register as an athlete

They are working with college career development departments, athletic departments and alumni associations seeking to place current and former athletes with job opportunities. Among the professionals who have shown excitement about InXAthlete are career development officers and counselors who specifically work with student-athletes.

They are also educating coaches about the new business. As ex-athletes, Wessell and Ferraro understand the important role that coaches play in the lives of their athletes from personal experience.

“We know coaches want what’s best for their athletes, not only for when they are in the collegiate sports world but what comes next for them. It’s about not just growing as an athlete but growing as a person. Coaches are the leader in that process and want to help their ex-athletes. On the other hand, we know coaches are extremely busy. They get calls from different employers around the country asking which of their kids would be good to hire. Instead of spending their time acting as a recruiter or a head hunter, they have a tool with InXAthlete where they can encourage their kids to be active. It helps student-athletes find jobs and grow as a person, and it helps the coaches being more efficient with their time,” said Wessell.

They will be listing full-time and part-time internships for current student-athletes, as well as full-time or part-time jobs for after graduation. In the perfect world, an athlete uses InXAthlete while they are in college seeking internships, right after graduation when searching for a job and throughout their lives when they are changing jobs and careers. When they get into a position of hiring employees, they can also use the tool to find qualified student-athletes seeking work.

They are also actively reaching out to companies of all sizes who are recruiting employees. By bringing athletes into a specialized database where companies can find them, they are lowering the cost and the time-commitment needed to identify the best candidates for new job opportunities.

Click here to register as an employer

Will this business thrive? Nothing is guaranteed, but when a great idea is put into action by a couple of motivated ex-athletes who understand how hard work and commitment can lead to success - the sky is the limit.

Consider what Lehigh coach Pat Santoro told LehighValleyLive.com after Max Wessell won 3-2 in the blood-round of the 2016 NCAA Championships in New York’s Madison Square Garden to clinch All-American status:

"Max does everything right," Santoro said. "His training, his lifting, his diet. He's battled injuries his whole time at Lehigh and it makes such a difference to see him finally be healthy."