When it came down to it, Clarion University was the place that filled Eli Brinsky’s requirements.
Good academic school: check.
Surging wrestling program: check.
Smart, innovative and motivating coach: check.
Strong tradition: check.
Brinsky, a senior at South Fayette High School, committed to Clarion Tuesday. He believes Clarion’s program is on the rise, and he wants to go along for the ride.
“I like the coaches there. Their mission is to grow the program and that is exactly what they are doing,” said Brinsky of head coach Keith Ferraro and his staff. “They are turning everything around, from academics to the lifestyle of the athletes, and I really like what they are doing there.”
Brinsky also considered American University, Seton Hill and Franklin & Marshall.
Clarion had dual membership as part of the Eastern Wrestling League and Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. Last year, Clarion was one of four PSAC teams to break away and join the Mid-American Conference.
The MAC is a Division I conference that receives spots in the NCAA Division I wrestling championships. Brinsky said a redshirt freshman season is a possibility and that he will wrestle at either 165 or 174 pounds.
“Being that it’s close to home, my parents can attend the matches,” said Brinsky. “That was important. I knew a couple guys on the team and Ryan Weinzen, a tough guy from Norwin, will be there.”
Brinsky spent two scholastic seasons competing in Class AA and two seasons in Class AAA, compiling a record of 125-49. This year, Brinsky placed sixth at 170 pounds in the PIAA Championships in Hershey and third in the WPIAL tournament at Cannon-McMillan High School.
Clarion has had eight NCAA champions, including Wade Schalles and Kurt Angle, who after leaving Clarion would go on to win a gold medal in the 1996 Summer Olympics before embarking on a career in professional wrestling.