Jordan Conaway has a knack for making good decisions.
Whether it’s on the wrestling mat where he’s won a pair of PIAA medals, or the in the classroom where he carries a 3.9 GPA, his instincts rarely lead him astray.
The New Oxford senior relied on those instincts again Monday when he signed his National Letter of Intent to attend Liberty University, where he’ll further his athletic and academic pursuits while also staying true to his spiritual beliefs.
Although other schools offered intriguing athletic and educational opportunities, Liberty provides a faith-based experience that Conaway felt he simply couldn’t pass up.
“That was pretty much the first thing,” he said. “I was looking to go Division 1, but with a Christian aspect. The atmosphere was friendly, the facilities were nice and it seemed like a good fit.”
Conaway visited Liberty’s Lynchburg, VA campus in early October and was enamored with the school. Rather than rush into a decision, he waited a few weeks and visited Clarion, the alma mater of his father Dave Conaway, the New Oxford head coach.
Both schools showed a strong interest in Jordan, but Liberty was his clear choice based on the spiritual opportunities, athletic facilities and a substantial financial package offered by Flames head coach Jesse Castro.
“He just loved it,” said Dave. “I think it’s a great fit for him because of the Christian background, it’s a safe atmosphere and I think he’ll grow spiritually. I think it’s a great decision and I’m really happy for him.”
Jordan had a breakthrough season as a junior, going 43-2 while winning a District 3 Class AAA title at 103 pounds. He went on to place third at the PIAA Championships, where he rallied for four straight victories after a narrow quarterfinal loss to eventual champion Conner Schram of Canon-McMillan.
Jordan became New Oxford’s first two-time state medal winner, and also holds school records for most pins in a season (20), takedowns in a season (184) and takedowns in a career (354). He brings a career mark of 108-17 into his senior season, which puts him just 13 wins away from breaking Steve Zinn’s school record for career wins.
With his college choice taken care of, Jordan admitted to feeling a sense of relief.
“It gets that off my mind, now I don’t have to worry about it,” said Jordan, who had assurances from head coach Jesse Castro that his performance this season would not affect Liberty’s interest in him. “I’m going to focus on my last season of high school wrestling.
“It doesn’t change my goals. Hopefully I’ll be a state champ.”
After a 12-year hiatus from the sport, Liberty has skyrocketed under direction of Castro, who enters his fifth season at the helm in Lynchburg. Castro has led the Flames to four straight NCAA East Regional team titles. In addition, Liberty has sent 20 wrestlers to the NCAA Division 1 Championships over the last four years, a feat matched by only 32 schools in the country.
Castro’s staff also includes Joe Kemmerer, a former PIAA champion from Crestwood High School who went on to win back-to-back NCAA Division 2 national titles while competing for Kutztown University.
“They’re really coming on, and I believe in Castro and the kids he’s getting,” Dave Conaway said. “They have a nice staff and great facilities as well.”
Jordan will see at least one familiar face at Liberty, as former Dallastown star Jon Childress returns at 125. Childress was one of six Liberty wrestlers to qualify for nationals last season.
As for his immediate future at Liberty, Jordan believes he will likely be red-shirted during his freshman year in order to get bigger and stronger in preparation for the rigors of Division 1 competition. Bulking up will be a necessity to thrive at 125, his expected weight class.
That’s just fine for someone who has spent the last few years trying to stay as small as possible.
“I’ll have to get bigger, which is going to be nice,” Jordan said with a laugh. “But once I get big, I’ll probably have to come back down again.”
Josh Martin can be reached at email@example.com