By Mike Finn
One of the most obvious happy memories Jeff Byers had this past year broadcasting the Penn State wrestling matches came at the NCAAs where sophomore David Taylor avenged a 2011 finals loss by dominating the 165-pound weight class in St. Louis in March.
"I know how tough the loss was the previous year and how much he's put in the sport," said Byers, who recently completed his 22nd year describing the action of the Nittany Lions to the Penn State fans on WRSC radio in State College, Pa.
But there was also another memory from Penn State's second straight national championship season that stands out for this native of State College. This one features 174-pound freshman Matt Brown, normally a reserve on the Nittany Lion team.
"It was more because of the way he did it; going up to 197 pounds and winning two matches (while subbing for Morgan McIntosh against Nebraska and Michigan in February)," Byers said. "To me he is the kid you want in the sport. Good kid and hard nose."
"I recognize how lucky I am to be up close to see what these guys are doing."
The same can be said for those lucky enough to listen to Byers, including on press row at the NCAAs where reporters around the country get to hear how excited he gets in describing the action.
"If it's a remarkable move, even against Penn State, I get excited," he said. "I like the sport competed at the highest level."
It's easy to understand Byers' love for Penn State wrestling the past two years, when the Lions topped the NCAA charts. But listeners would have heard the same thing before the arrival of Cael Sanderson and the Lions' recent success and national titles.
"I honestly think it's the passion I have for both the sport and the program," he said when notified of winning the award. "It's infectious when you have someone who is passionate. I have friends with whom, I may have zero interest in on various topics. But because of their passion on the topic, I will get involved in the topic.
"I think it's simple as that."
And because of Byers' ability to express himself so passionately when it comes to the sport, the 43-year-old broadcaster was named WIN's Journalist of the Year. He also received the award in 1999.
"Jeff finds a way to build excitement into every minute of Penn State matches," said WIN Publisher Bryan Van Kley. "Listening to him gives listeners a chance to hear a true master at his craft. He makes it sound so easy, which all the great ones do."
One thing Byers was not great at was wrestling; something he only did as a kid and for one year in high school. Despite the fact that his father was a Pennsylvania state runner-up at State College High School in the 1950s and later served as an assistant high school coach, Jeff did not have the "gumby factor" or flexibility when it came to wrestling and focused primarily on football.
Once in college at Penn State, Byers got involved in broadcasting, first with the student station and later in the early 1990s when Penn State hosted Iowa and he was invited to describe the action.
At this point, becoming a television broadcaster is not on the top of his list.
"I thought about TV but I'm not sure I have the passion (for that medium)," he said. "With radio it feels like I have more of a one-on-one relationship with my audience."
And the good thing is that Byers has many more years ahead describing action from those in a blue and white singlet.
"I don't know where my broadcasting career is going to go, but I can't imagine there is anything else that would bring me as much joy as covering Penn State wrestling."
Tags: Cael Sanderson, David Taylor, Matt Brown, Morgan McIntosh