As a wrestler, it isn’t unusual for Jordan Conaway to find himself twisted in a dozen different directions at once.
But nothing could have prepared the New Oxford senior for the head-spinning 24 hours he recently experienced after learning that Liberty University reclassified its wrestling program.
Conaway signed his National Letter of Intent to attend the Lynchburg, Va. school several weeks ago, and was set to receive a sizeable scholarship that would span the entire time he planned to attend Liberty. That all changed in an instant Tuesday when Conaway learned that Liberty, in accordance with Title IX, was reclassifying its wrestling program from NCAA Division I status to a club program, effective immediately.
Liberty has added three new women’s athletic programs since 2009 (lacrosse, swimming and field hockey), but was still unable to meet NCAA proportionality standards.
Liberty also dropped wrestling in June of 1994, eventually bringing the program back in 2006.
“I was shocked,” said Conaway, who won a PIAA Class AAA 112-pound title on March 12 in Hershey. “I didn’t see that coming. I felt bad that I couldn’t go there, but also for Coach (Jesse) Castro. He’s out of a job.”
Dave Conaway, Jordan’s father and New Oxford’s varsity wrestling coach, received a phone call from Castro Tuesday evening, explaining the unpleasant and unexpected turn of events.
“(Castro) didn’t know until Tuesday afternoon, they just dropped it on him,” said Dave. “He put five years into rebuilding the program. . . it makes no sense to me.”
Dave’s concerns centered around Jordan’s future plans, which suddenly did not include Liberty.
“He had a scholarship in hand, and I wasn’t too happy about the way they handled him,” Dave said. “They should have given him further notice. I didn’t know if our letter of intent stood up, where we were going to go, if anybody was going to contact us.”
The answer to that last question came swiftly, as the phone began ringing off the hook at the Conaway’s home.
Among the suitors were Michigan, Virginia, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Nebraska, American, the University of Pennsylvania and Clarion.
“In less than 24 hours, it was unbelievable,” Jordan said. “We were answering the phone all the time.”
Dave decided to be pro-active, and contacted Penn State University. The Nittany Lions captured an NCAA Division I championship last weekend in Philadelphia and have stockpiled some of the best young talent in the country under second-year head coach Cael Sanderson, who returned a call to the Conaway’s Wednesday evening, expressing interest in Jordan’s services.
“Coach Sanderson calling was awesome,” said Jordan, who plans to visit State College next week. “I’m pretty excited. I told him my goals, and he said they have the resources to get that done and help me be the best wrestler I can be. That would be awesome to be on a team that won a national title.”
Both Conaways believe that Jordan’s 3-2 decision over Evan Silver of Blair Academy in the Dapper Dan Classic in Pittsburgh last Sunday went a long way in ramping up national interest in the Colonial senior. Silver was a four-time national prep champion, and the No. 1 ranked high school wrestler in the country at 112 pounds by InterMat.com.
“That put us at the highest point we could be to be recruited,” Dave said. “The Classic is a big deal.”
While Jordan said he would have liked to attend Liberty for its Christian-based ideals and environment, he didn’t want to regret not reaching his full potential as a wrestler. Dave agreed, adding that the recent developments could be a blessing in disguise.
“God shuts one door and opens another,” he said.
Josh Martin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org