The Dominion Post  

Morgantown wrestlers earn academic distinction

Created on:   Thu, Feb 8, 2018   11:04 PM

Last modified:   Thu, Feb 8, 2018   11:03 PM

For The Dominion Post

MORGANTOWN — You’re reading the sports page right now, so you know that statistics and athletics are never very far apart. Hits and outs, makes and misses, wins and losses fill the agate type and the record books.

But there’s more than one way to measure success in sports, especially when it comes to scholar-athletes and young teams. For the Morgantown High wrestling team, this season has been about steady improvement on the mat and, more importantly, outstanding achievement in the classroom.

By maintaining at least a
3.5 grade-point average, no less than seven Mohigans were named to the WV-Mat academic all-state team: Freshmen Michael Gale and Ethan Shipp, sophomores Griffen Leombruno, Jessie Walker and Michael White, and juniors Alex and Eric Shriver.

For second-year head coach Joe Abu, the accomplishment is definitely a source of considerable pride.

“We stress the importance of schoolwork every day,” Abu said, “and our kids have obviously taken it to heart. And they know that it’s not just about maintaining their eligibility for varsity wrestling. For most of them, wrestling will end at the high school level, but for all of them, academic scholarships and college admissions and future success all stem from classroom success.”

While Abu knows that wrestlers must learn to read and react to their opponents, which takes a certain athletic awareness and intelligence, there is no substitute for one critical aspect of scholar-athlete proficiency that wrestlers typically possess in spades.


“No matter how gifted you are, you won’t be good at higher levels of competition unless you work hard and constantly strive to improve,” he continued. “And that is true whether you are trying to qualify for the state tournament or score high on the SAT. Wrestling is such a tough, demanding sport, and it’s great to see our kids apply that strong work ethic to everything they do at MHS.”

For Leombruno, a second-year wrestler who maintains a 4.0 GPA despite a demanding, Honors-class laden schedule, the sport is a positive, motivating experience — even after a rough freshman rookie season.

“Yeah, it was pretty disappointing last year,” he said with a smile. “I went like 2-11, and my wins were forfeits. But coach Abu and my teammates were always supportive and encouraging. They told me I would get stronger and more experienced, to just stick with it. And this year, I’m above .500, and knowing that I can win matches has really helped my confidence level, both for the team and in my classes.

“Being on the team has been great for me,” said the 138-pound sophomore with aspirations of following his sister Mikayla into WVU’s Medical School, “because it helps distract me when I’m super stressed over a test, plus I’ve become really good friends with my teammates. And since I started wrestling, I’ve dropped a lot of weight, too. Wrestling is always a really good part of my day.”

The Mohigans are looking forward to Saturday’s regional tournament at Brooke, and the future of the MHS wrestling program appears to be brightening with each week and match. But while those W/L stats are climbing, it’s important to recognize that there are plenty of numbers that — for true scholar-athletes — are already exactly where they need to be.