Penn State Cadet helps school to national wrestling championship
March 29, 2013
Matt Brown grapples with what might have been. After last weekend's NCAA Division I Championships -- a tournament his Penn State University team won for the third straight year -- the redshirt sophomore reflected with a sense of pleasure and disappointment.
Sure, his team finished as the nation's best. But individually, Brown, an Army ROTC Cadet, came up short in his quest for gold, finishing as runner-up in the 174-pound weight class.
He was barely beaten, dropping a 2-1 decision to Oklahoma State's Chris Perry.
"That's not much consolation," he said.
Despite Brown's personal setback, his performance was anything but shabby. After all, he finished second in the nation and closed out the year with a 29-5 record.
On top of that, he won the Big Ten championship in his weight class earlier this month, a feat that put him in position to vie for a national title.
At last weekend's final in Des Moines, Iowa, against Perry, Brown wrestled him to a 1-1 tie after three periods and seven minutes of regulation. Neither could manage an edge during the 90-second overtime.
But in the third OT period, Perry slipped from Brown's grasp to score an escape and eke out a 2-1 win.
Brown said the team's overall victory by a 123.5 to 119.5 margin helped diminish his personal disappointment.
"We needed every single person," he said. "That makes it more special.
"To our coaches, it's all about effort and not focusing on results. Their motto is 'get better 1 percent every day.' That's why we were able to do what we did."
Brown was relegated to Penn State's junior variety last season, stuck behind Ed Ruth at 174 pounds. But Ruth, the national champ at 174 last March, moved up to 184 pounds this season -- and won the national title at that weight -- and Brown did, too.
The 22-year-old is making his mark after a two-year break from the sport to perform a mission as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. As he weighed his decision to take a hiatus, people wondered -- sometimes aloud -- whether he could regain his prowess on the mat before his collegiate career ends.
"I knew it would be a lot of hard work to come back," Brown said. "But in the end, it was good for my body to take a break. I came back stronger and more mature."
Besides concentrating on preparing himself to perform on the mat, Brown has been focused in the classroom as well. His 3.97 GPA earned him the Elite 89 Award at the Division I wrestling championships, recognizing the criminology major as the top academic scholar among the 330 wrestlers competing in the tournament.
"I try to get good grades because I should give my best effort," Brown said. "It's a personal thing. I wasn't trying to get recognized for it."
As a third-year ROTC student, Brown said his military courses have helped him as a wrestler in honing his ability to pay greater attention to detail and to be patient "such as when to attack and waiting for opportunity." Wresting, in turn, has helped him as a Cadet, particularly in tackling the physical challenges of the program and on the physical fitness test, on which he scored as high as 372 this school year.
"I see a lot of similarities," he said of wrestling and ROTC.
Lt. Col. Ken Weiland, the professor of military science at Penn State, describes Brown as a standout who possesses considerable potential as a future Army leader.
"He possesses all the qualities and attributes that we look for in our future leaders," Weiland said. "He is confident, physically, mentally and spiritually fit, mature, and in spite all of his success in athletics and other interests, remains fully grounded."
Brown hopes -- even expects -- the finale of his wrestling season to be different next year. He'll be more driven.
"I got a taste of success," Brown said. "I fell short in the NCAA. I'm going to remain hungry. That'll propel me to accomplish my goal."