March 10, 2009

By Amy Farnum Novin

Only in its fourth year of existence, Newberry College has already made a statement that it is a national contender among Division II wrestling programs.  Now, the fast-developing squad has a chance to put an exclamation mark on that statement as it enters the 2009 NCAA Championships.

Heavyweight Cy Wainwright, ranked No. 1 in his weight class, is one of eight Newberry wrestlers that qualified for NCAA Championships.  The native of Green Cove Spring, Fla., has compiled a perfect 32-0 record this season, earning all but one of his victories by fall, technical fall or major decision. 

Wainwright, like Newberry, has matured into a force to be reckoned with in only a few short years.  When he first arrived on campus in Newberry, S.C., Wainwright had transferred from Bethune-Cookman, where his played football for one season.  He had wrestled in high school, and missed the sport and wanted to return. 

“Newberry wasn’t a program yet while I was going through the recruiting process,” said Wainwright.  “I had a cousin go to school here and he helped get my foot in the door, and then I talked to Coach (Jason) Valek.  He made some promises to me right off the bat, and I went with my gut instinct and believed in him, and sure enough he was right.”

In his first season, the team already had heavyweight Kelly Anderson, who won the spot, although Wainwright was battling for a close second.

“We were kind of torn because Cy would place one behind Kelly in all these tournaments,” said Valek.  “Kelly had the ability to cut to 197, so he ended up doing that and Cy got his chance.”
Wainwright made the most of his opportunity, advancing to nationals in 2007 before falling short in the All-American round.  But the loss only motivated Wainwright.

“The worst thing for me was losing at the national tournament and my parents were in the stands,” said Wainwright.  “They’ve done everything they can for me, and to see the look on their faces when I lost made me never want to let them down again.  That really sparked my fire.  I want to make them proud of everything I do.”

“Since then, he has been totally committed to wrestling,” said Valek.  “It took him a little while to realize what it took, but he’s been here every summer, he never misses a workout, and he sometimes gets two or three extra workouts in a day.  He’s mostly improved by himself through his own worth ethic and desire.  We’ve just pointed him in a direction like we do most kids, and he’s taken to coaching and taken it upon himself to be what he is right now.”

Last season, Wainwright put together an outstanding 42-4 record, and claimed All-America honors with a third-place finish at the national tournament.  Wainwright focuses on being quicker than his competitors and does a lot of footwork drills to improve that aspect of his technique.  He even got a job on a farm during the summer to help build strength and endurance.

“For a heavyweight, one of my biggest assets is being faster and quicker than a lot of the bigger guys, because I only weigh 245 or 250 pounds,” said Wainwright.  “By being quicker, I can contend with them strength-wise and that’s an advantage to me.”

Academically, Wainwright is doing his student teaching at Newberry Middle School, and wants to pursue a career as a coach and teacher.  He enjoys attending local high school wrestling matches, and has served as a referee for middle school events.  Wainwright says his best advice to share with young wrestlers is to “keep moving forward and don’t slow down.
“A lot of times with young kids, they stop moving and they get caught,” said Wainwright.  “If they keep moving forward, they keep pressure on their opponent.”

Wainwright hopes to follow his own advice in Houston as he has an opportunity to be Newberry’s first-ever NCAA champion.  As a team, the squad will look to improve on its eighth-place finish last year.

“I told the guys, we’re in the same position we were last year, you just believe in what we can do now,” said Valek.  “We had eight qualifiers and won our region last year, but that sense of maturity and the leadership from not only Cy, but our other senior Andrew Young – both returning All-Americans – have kind of moved our team along from that perspective.  Confidence goes such long way, and it’s great to see it finally paying off for them.”