When Penn Cambria senior Derek Brown went on his official visit to Clarion University, he immediately found himself in a spot that reminded him of home.
The rural campus, combined with an opportunity to wrestle at the Division I level, was too enticing an offer for Brown to pass up. On Monday, Brown verbally committed to continue his wrestling career at Clarion.
“I enjoyed the environment, Clarion has that backwoods feel that we have here,” Brown said Monday in a phone interview.
“It was straight up my alley. I thought it was the best fit for me, it felt like my home away from home.”
Brown will go in undecided, with hopes of eventually majoring in the business or medical field. The 170-pounder also considered Pitt-Johnstown in the recruiting process.
Ranked No. 3 at 170 by PA Power Wrestling, Brown has compiled a career record of 113-35.
While wrestling has not always been his preferred sport, his appreciation for the sport has increased over the years.
“It means a lot (to wrestle at the Division I level),” Brown said. “I started out wrestling just to do it, never having dreams of wrestling in college.
“Football was always my No. 1 sport growing up, but I just developed a love for wrestling.
“Ever since 10th grade, I wanted to become an All-American and wrestle in college.”
Brown also rushed for over 1,000 yards last fall on the gridiron. He believes Clarion (5-4, 2-0 in the Eastern Wrestling League) is prospering under the leadership of coach Keith Ferraro.
“The coaches were laid back. They get to the point quickly, and I like that about them,” said Brown, who was the District 6 and Southwest Regional Class AA runner-up and PIAA sixth-place finisher last year at 170. “The team was really friendly. Everyone there has the same hopes of becoming an All-American.”
Penn Cambria coach Todd Niebauer has high praise for Brown.
“Derek has been wrestling many years, so he has a great skill set and when he stays focused, he is able to bring that out on the mat,” Niebauer said.
“He is extremely explosive when he wants to be. Sometimes he absolutely amazes me with the things he can do out there.”
With a 20-2 record this season, Brown has bold aspirations for the rest of his scholastic career.
“I want to be a state champ,” he said. “Penn Cambria has yet to have one. I think that would be a great accomplishment.”
Jake Oswalt is a copy editor for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @TheWizOfOz11.