The journey to get to the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships is an accomplishment in itself.
But New Oxford High School graduate Jordan Conaway still aimed for more. He wanted to become an All-American, which would have required a top-eight finish in his 133-pound weight class over the weekend.
Unfortunately for the former walk-on turned scholarship grappler at Penn State, Conaway would leave the national tournament in Des Moines, Iowa, just one win shy of his goal.
"I lost and didn't accomplish (my goal)," he said. "I think I wrestled well. There are some technical things I gotta work on."
But Conaway is just a redshirt freshman, so he has a good shot at becoming an All-American before his career with the Nittany Lions is done. That has to make this weekend's performance a little bit easier to swallow, right?
"Yeah, it does a little bit," Conaway said. "It puts things in perspective a little bit. Still, it's a little annoying."
Conaway made those comments by phone Sunday night, shortly after he and the rest of the Penn State wrestling team returned following flights from Iowa to Detroit to State College.
Expectations: The former York-Adams League standout had high expectations entering Thursday's first round, where he faced Rutgers' redshirt junior Vincent Dellafave.
"The first guy I wrestled before in a dual meet and beat him 6-1," Conaway said. "He ended up beating me in the first round (Thursday). And the rest of the matches I faced kids I never wrestled before."
With his parents watching from the stands, Conaway bounced back from his 3-1 overtime loss to Dellafave by winning his next three consolation bouts before falling to Oklahoma redshirt freshman Cody Brewer, 14-4.
Break: The rehabilitation and human services major said he will use this week to get back to classes and take a break from exercising before hitting the mats again next week.
Conaway admits he has rarely rested during his time at Penn State, where he chose to enroll after his first choice, Liberty University, revealed in March 2011 it was dropping its Division I wrestling program.
"Nothing against any other coaches but I don't think I'd be as good as a wrestler going anywhere else," Conaway said. "The coaching staff is awesome here. It's definitely a blessing ending up going here."
Return: He'll have plenty to build on for next season after going 22-12 this year, including a fifth-place finish at the Big Ten Conference Championships. In the process, Conaway helped Penn State (13-1) win its third straight conference and national titles.
For now, he's just looking forward to learning more from his coaches this offseason and spending the summer months training with close friend Cameron Throckmorton, a South Western grad who wrestles for Shippensburg. Conaway said he'd like to return at 133 pounds next season.
English: Conaway won't be the only local grappler returning for Penn State next season.
Central York grad James English (149 pounds) will return as a sixth-year senior thanks to the NCAA granting him one last year of eligibility. English, who has battled injuries throughout his PSU career, went 14-4 this season.
-- Reach John Walk at firstname.lastname@example.org.