|Ken Chertow (1989)|
|Penn State wrestling is special. It is a privilege and honor to be a member of the Penn State wrestling family.
During my sophomore year of high school I went to watch the NCAA championships, and that is when my dream of excelling in college wrestling became a concrete goal for me. I was not sure what school I wanted to attend, but I worked diligently, year-round throughout high school to make it to the "big time." During my senior year of high school I went to watch the NCAA championships at the Meadowlands where I witnessed Carl DeStefanis and Scott Lynch win NCAA championships. It was awesome. I am sure the long-time Penn State fans reading this remember that night. The excitement that night peaked my interest in becoming a Nittany Lion.
I had attended Penn State Wrestling Camp during high school so I already knew Coaches Lorenzo and Fritz, though they had not yet shown significant interest in me. Nevertheless, I tracked down Coach Fritz in the hallway of the Meadowlands to congratulate him and tell him I wanted to visit Penn State and become his next lightweight protégé.
A couple weeks later I visited Penn State the weekend of the wrestling banquet. What an incredible experience! There were many hundreds of dedicated Penn State wrestling fans in attendance, and I met dozens of great people. Growing up in West Virginia, I found that few people knew much about wrestling, let alone cared about our sport. It was clear that things are different here in PA!
My years at Penn State as a student-athlete were awesome. I challenged myself daily to excel in both school and wrestling, and my commitment paid off. I have great memories of battles in the wrestling room with Tim Flynn, Jim Martin, Coach Fritz, and many other of my teammates and coaches. We brought the best out in each other. I was fortunate to have team captains such as Eric Brugel and Chris Bevilacqua to look up to and seek guidance from. Chris and Eric are class acts and were great leaders for our program.
My greatest memory at Penn State is from early in my career when we defeated Dan Gable's Iowa team in Rec Hall. The place was rocking. I am very appreciate of all the Penn State fans who made my career so much fun! A few minutes the end of the dual meet when I was signing autographs, a little boy came up to me and asked me why I wrestle. I paused for a couple seconds. In the excitement of the moment I could have easily said because it is fun or exciting; however, I told him, "I love wrestling because it is challenging!" This was a significant realization for me. I do not wrestle for glory or satisfaction, I compete because of the challenge. Throughout my years training at Penn State I challenged myself to improve daily and become the very best I could be. My coaches and teammates played an integral role in challenging me to help me reach my fullest potential.
Another great memory was the following season when we became the first team to beat Iowa at Carver Hawkeye Arena, where they had a many-season undefeated streak since the building had opened. I started off the dual meet by scoring four takedowns, a tilt, and riding All-American Steve Martin for over two minutes on the way to a major decision to silence the home crowd who had revenge on their minds.
I represented Penn State and the United States in the Olympics between my junior and senior seasons. En route to making our Olympic Team I had to win over 20 matches in the trials and culminated the series of Olympic trials with two wins over three-time NCAA Champion Jack Cuvo and two wins over NCAA champion and Olympian Joe Gonzales on consecutive days.
It was a tremendous honor to represent Penn State and our country in the Olympics. I am thankful to the Penn State Wrestling Club for helping subsidize my training and competition throughout my career, which enabled me to become the youngest member of our Olympic team. I went to the Olympic Training Center and to overseas competitions every summer during college. THANK YOU for playing a role in and supporting my development.
During my career I had some great rivalries and was able to defeat many great wrestlers who I have much respect for—such as Kendall Cross, Zeke Jones, Barry Davis, Terry Brands, Brad Penrith, Joe Melchiore, Jack Griffin, and both Ricky and Rocky Bonomo. These individual victories are great memories, but there is truly no greater memory than a hard fought dual meet in Rec Hall. Thank you to all the Penn State fans who were so very supportive. I always strived to perform admirably and entertain you.
On three separate occasions I have chosen to make Penn State my HOME. Before graduating from Penn State I asked Coaches Lorenzo and Fritz if it was in my best interest to be a graduate assistant or to seek a coaching job at a different school and then return in the future. We all agreed that accepting a position at Ohio State with Russ Hellickson was a great opportunity for me. My first year at Ohio State I was in medical school, coaching, and competing. It was a great challenge, and I fell in love with coaching and decided to focus on wrestling. My goal was to help the Buckeyes excel, but I knew when Coach Lorenzo retired it was possible that I would return to Penn State.
I spent three seasons at Ohio State, and we built a very successful program with two top five finishes at the NCAA tournament. However, I still considered Penn State HOME. When Rich Lorenzo retired, I returned to Penn State to assist John Fritz. We were able to finish 2nd at the NCAA Tournament and win the National Dual Meet Championship. It was a very memorable experience. The season after we won the National Duals I decided to leave college coaching to focus on my summer camps. I made sure that I did not leave the proverbial cupboard bare since before leaving we signed Glenn Pritzlaff, Clint Musser, Eddie Jayne, Biff Walizer and John Lange, paving the way for another successful era of Penn State wrestling.
Returning to Happy Valley for a third time was the charm for me and my family. We conduct camps across the nation so my wife Laurie and I could have chosen to settle anywhere. We decided that the place we wanted to live and raise our family was in State College. Of course our ability to follow Penn State closely played a role in our decision. We have two children, Alex and Emily. who have already made commitments to sign early at Penn State although at ages 8 and 10 they have a few years to wait.
Seriously, though, we are working hard to help local kids excel and live their dreams. Many of our long-time local campers are now or have been Penn State wrestlers. Brad Pataky, Jake Strayer, Nathan Galloway, and James Yonushonis have all grown up training with me, not only at summer camp, but throughout the year. I am proud to see these dedicated young men representing Penn State.
I am honored to have played a role in very successful eras of Penn State wrestling as a competitor, coach, recruiter, and most recently by preparing my students to excel in school and wrestling so they can live their dreams of wrestling for Penn State too.
Thanks for the memories, Penn State fans!
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