By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Entering his first season as a starter for the Penn State wrestling team, redshirt freshmen Jordan Conaway knew he would have a high standard to live up to in a lineup featuring five returning All-Americans.
Now with the regular season almost complete, it is safe to say that Conaway has more than lived up to the expectations of being a Nittany Lion.
With a 13-6 overall record that includes three victories over ranked opponents, Conaway entered this week as the 13th ranked wrestler at the 133-weight, a nice reward for someone who has been one of the team's scrappiest competitors all season.
"It's nice to finally be ranked but I try not to worry too much about it," said Conaway. "Rankings aren't something we like to focus on."
While Conaway's emergence in the rankings validates the job he has done this season, it also serves notice to the rest of the country that he will look to be a force to be reckoned with come postseason.
Although the added attention will make it harder for him to sneak up on some of his opponents the way he has done so far this season, the Abbottstown, Pa., native was adamant that his mindset has not changed.
"You have to wrestle the same no matter who you're going against or what your ranking is," said Conaway. "Even though some of the kids might be considered tougher you have to keep the same mentality."
This mindset is a big part of what has enabled Conaway to upset a number of the country's top ranked 133-pounders already, including third ranked Tyler Graff of Wisconsin.
Along with his attitude, Conaway attributes his success to the superior conditioning he has developed.
For a number of his matches this season, the freshman has used the third period to wear down tired opponents in order to score both victories and bonus points.
"I know kids are going to get tired and I'm usually better at being conditioned and lasting through the match," said Conaway. "I know going into the match to be ready for them to start slowing down so that I can start to make my moves."
Conaway's third period heroics have thrilled not just his teammates and coaches this season, but also the Penn State fans.
It has become common at home meets for the Nittany Lion faithful to save their loudest cheers for Conaway's matches, including his win over Graff, which arguably was the loudest Rec Hall has been all year.
The energy and excitement provided by the crowd have, according to Conaway, willed him to victory numerous times.
"The atmosphere here is a lot different than anywhere else and it's an awesome place to compete," said Conaway. "Having so many people right on top of you is different but it makes it really fun."
While Conaway has improved rapidly during his first season as a starter for the Nittany Lions, it has not been hard for him to find motivation to continue to get better.
With eight other ranked wrestlers, including three national champions, surrounding him in the lineup, Conaway has not had to look far to see what it takes to achieve greatness.
"We have so many top ranked guys in the room so it definitely motivates me to keep working harder to get to where they are," said Conaway. "It's a good room to practice in because everyone is working hard so you have to do the same thing."
Although the season may be winding down, Conaway is not ready to stop and reflect on what he has achieved just yet.
With the Big Ten Championships approaching, he's looking to continue to make a name for himself and to earn a berth in the NCAA Championships.
"The season's still not over and the goals I set haven't been accomplished yet," said Conaway. "I'm excited to wrestle in these upcoming tournaments and to see how I do."
Newly-Ranked Conaway Looks to Stay Focused
By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student
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