Arts & Entertainment

Josh Glenn’s American Dream

JOSH GLENN (TOP) hopes his individual success can lift the prestige of American University's wrestling program. (Photo: Courtesy American University)National Champ Wants to Put AU Wrestling on Map

Oklahoma State. Iowa. Nebraska. Minnesota. These are the bonafide powerhouses of NCAA wrestling, their names conjuring grandiose images of championship gold. To this point, American University has not counted among that upper echelon. However, if reigning NCAA champion Josh Glenn can do anything about it, that’s about to change.

Glenn, a senior set to graduate with a double-major in law & society and U.S. foreign policy in May, became AU wrestling’s first national champion last year at the 2007 NCAA Championships, held in Auburn Hills, Mich. Glenn avenged his only loss of last season by winning a sudden-victory overtime match against Iowa State’s Kurt Backes in the 197 lbs. championship, by a count of 6-4. With the decision over Backes, Glenn became American’s first Division I champion in nearly 40 years.

Though an individual champion, as he eyes his title defense at the NCAA Championships — March 20-22 — Glenn’s focus remains on the greater good of amping up American’s wrestling program. He refuses to remain satisfied with his laundry list of accomplishments to date; instead, he hopes that his achievements can inspire and push his teammates to greatness, establishing a reputable wrestling program at American.

“You know, I think with everything I’ve done, I hope that I’ve been a great icon for these guys,” Glenn says. “I hope they can build off of everything we’ve accomplished so far. It’s a great team with great coaches and great leadership.”

On Sunday, Feb. 3, while the rest of the country was preparing to watch one of the greater sports upsets in recent memory in that night's Super Bowl XLII meeting between the Patiots and Giants, Glenn was preparing for a different kind of landmark event.

The Eagles had their last home match of the year at 2 p.m. against the No. 22 Old Dominion Monarchs. With that came Senior Day and well-deserved appreciation of Glenn, the team's lone senior and arguably the greatest wrestler in the history of the American wrestling program.

An announcer enumerates Glenn’s incredible list of accolades, which increase in grandeur as he progresses through the years.

Glenn finished his freshman campaign with a 29-8 record, earning EIWA Freshman of the Year honors and his first NCAA Championship berth. Glenn hit his stride during his sophomore year, where he finished 35-3 — ranked second in the nation in his weight class — and won his first EIWA Championship. That year he finished fourth in the NCAA Championships and earned All-America honors for his troubles. Last year, he repeated as EIWA Champion, posting an 18-1 record throughout the course of the season. He again earned All-America honors, won the NCAA Championships and was named EIWA Wrestler of the Year, becoming the first wrestler to win both Freshman of the Year and Wrestler of the Year awards.

Despite the pressure as a reigning national champion, and bearing the burden of the bullseye that accompanies it, Glenn has not let the pressure get to him. He currently is the top-ranked wrestler in his weight class and, to date, has posted an 11-0 record, including winning the 197 lbs. Midlands Championship, American’s first championship in that prestigious tournament. He also achieved Academic All-America status, proving he’s not just brawn, but brains as well.

As American fans demonstrated their appreciation on Sunday, Glenn walked to the center of the mat for a picture with his family, then retreated right back to the sideline with the rest of his AU mates, a move embodying exactly what Glenn stands for — the team.

When asked about the emotion surrounding his final home match, Glenn was quick to reply. “It’s just a match. No other emotions.” This is Glenn to a “T.” Team first, self second. And while “wrestling is just as much an individual sport as a team sport,” according to AU coach Mark Cody, Glenn finds ways to serve as inspiration to his teammates, hoping to leave behind a legacy reaching far beyond his incredible list of accomplishments.

Cody similarly has grand aspirations for the future of the program, hoping that Glenn's achievements are just a jumping-off point.

“Josh set a benchmark for these kids,” Cody says. “The young guys benefit now and it helps with recruiting. Recruits can see that we can produce All-Americans, NCAA Champions and they want to come to school here.” With eight recruits signed early for next year, including two of the top-ranked high school seniors in the country, Cody appears to be primed to capitalize on the future.

However, with American’s paltry 3-11 overall record this season, most of the team's focus has already turned to the road ahead and, most importantly, the NCAA Championships. Cody hopes “we can pick up a few dual meets here and there along the way, but we’re mainly placing value in the EIWA Championship and NCAA Championship now.”

After a 17th place finish in last year’s NCAA Championships — the only school in the top 40 not fully funded by their athletic program, Cody is quick to point out — the coach believes “we’ve got the talent to be a top 15 team this year. I’ve just gotta figure out how to convince the guys to really believe it.”

Glenn clearly bought into Cody’s message. His words still echo in Glenn's memory to this day: “Listen to what I say, get your focus on becoming a national champion, and you can really do it.”  Three years later, both Cody — the main factor that drew Glenn to American — and his pupil find themselves strategizing for a second straight national title.

“[Glenn]’s just gotta stay healthy, keep conditioning — always gotta keep improving too,” Cody says.

For a wrestler like Josh Glenn, finding room for improvement becomes more difficult with every match he wins.