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News from July...2001

National Champion Interview

Koscheck Running Away From The Pack

by John Fuller


Football was always main priority in Josh Koscheck's life. The former star running back at Waynesburg High School in Pennsylvania had planned, and desired, a life in the rugged sport.

But while Koscheck was being recruited by colleges such as Bloomsburg, Edinboro and Pittsburgh, he changed directions, like so many of the great running backs he planned to emulate.

Koscheck decided to pursue the sport of wrestling in college.

That decision seemed to pay off this past season, when Koscheck, a junior 174-pounder for Edinboro, won an NCAA individual title with an 8-1 decision over Maurice Worthy.

"It felt really good," Koscheck said as he took a rare moment to reflect on last season. "It showed that my hard work has paid off. Coming from the little town of Waynesburg, I wasn't supposed to win anything."

Koscheck, who resembles a football player even in his style of wrestling, had been in that position before. He was an NCAA Finalist in 2000, when he lost to Oklahoma's Byron Tucker.

That match, along with his other three losses that season, helped shape what would turn out to be a historic season for this small-town hero.

"I prepared myself totally different this year than I did last year. Byron Tucker is a great wrestler, but I don't think I prepared as well. I thought I could've prepared myself better mentally and physically," said Koscheck, still disappointed from his last loss of over one year ago.

Koscheck went back to the drawing board following that loss. He trained all summer, working on his mat skills. He felt he was good enough physically to win the title, but he knew that more would be needed to stand on the top of the podium.

"When I'm intense, I don't think anybody can hang with me," he will tell anyone.

But this season, someone did hang with Koscheck - Iowa's Gabe McMahan. It was easily Koscheck's closest match this season, and in his opinion, the 5-4 tiebreaker victory was a turning point in his season.

"I didn't set a goal of going undefeated. I didn't even have that in my mind," he said, assuring himself he was not overlooking another victim. "I was very lucky to get out of that match alive. It was kind of a turning point for the season for me. I learned from that, so that match kind of played to my favor."

Koscheck feels that one can never be satisfied, even in victory, and that philosophy helped him to a 42-0 record this season. It would mark the first time an Edinboro wrestler went undefeated for a full season.

He also became the fifth three-time All-American in school history, with a chance to join the prestigious NCAA wrestling fraternity of four-time All-Americans. Koscheck placed fifth at the NCAA Tournament in 1999.

"I don't even look at myself as being a champ," a humble Koscheck stated. "I know what I have to do. I have seen what can happen, just look at Brad Vering. That's not where I want to be."

Vering was the 2000 NCAA Champion at 197-pound before ending his career with a seventh-place finish.

Being humble is something Koscheck has been used to. His grandparents raised him after his mother gave birth to him when she was just 18 years old. His mother stayed with his grandparents after Koscheck was first born, and he stayed permanently.

"I don't think she was ready to take the responsibility of raising me," he stated while also noting a solid relationship with his mother.

The decision to stay turned out to be a good one as well, as it was there he began to wrestle.

"I needed something to take my aggression out on because I was a terror. I fell in love with it, but I really wasn't serious about it."

For a while, Koscheck would fall out of love with it.

He began to cut excessive amounts of weight in high school, wrestling at 135 pounds as a junior. The next season, Koscheck wrestled at 160 pounds, and he showed his true colors, becoming a state finalist, considered to be more of an honor in the state of Pennsylvania than winning the title in most other states.

He chose to wrestle at Edinboro because he felt it was where he could be successful. He also related well to a youthful coaching staff that is clearly building one of the top programs in the nation.

"These four years I have been at Edinboro have been awesome," Koscheck said with a smile that has almost become trademark for him. "I already have my degree and am going to enter grad school next fall. Edinboro has just helped me become a better person and a better wrestler."

For now, Koscheck will have to concentrate on becoming the first repeat national champion in Edinboro history, which would just add to his already historic career. According to him, though, it shouldn't be a far cry from everyday life.

"I win it all every day in the wrestling room."


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© 2001 All rights reserved.
Thanks to Blue Sparks for use of the Blue Send script.