Former Pittsburgh area wrestler Te’Shan Campbell advances to the NCAA Championships Round of 16

 

PITTSBURGH, Pa.: Te’Shan Campbell put his ankle bands on, walked to the edge of the mat, took a knee, and prayed before his opening-round match in the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships.

It’s a ritual for Campbell. Not only is it a display of faith, it’s a way to show appreciation for everything that has happened in his life.

Campbell went on to win his first-round match in impressive fashion. The Ohio State senior entered the scrum as the No. 21 seed and beat No. 12-seed Ebed Jarrell, of Drexel, by a 6-0 count on a third-period flurry.

But big picture, that’s not what stands out about the soft-spoken Campbell. The four NCAA Championship appearances are a nice accomplishment, but his success off the mat is the reason Campbell is a worthy role model.

Campbell could have gone a different direction. He grew up in a rough area of Pittsburgh but managed to make it out, and not only go to college, but become a leader through wrestling.

“Every time I take a knee after I put my ankle bands on to pray, I reflect [on the past], because I beat many odds,” Campbell said. “There aren’t too many people who can say they have done well from my area.

“I go back all the time to help with the Westinghouse Youth Program, just to show my face and provide guidance and give those guys hope. I just try to put good things in their ear, because it’s easy to get involved in that environment.”

Continued Campbell, “I thank God that he blessed me with two good parents who kept me out of the streets and on a positive road. Everything I do positive, I try to give back, and I’m just appreciative that I was able to make it out.”

Campbell grew up in an area of Pittsburgh called Lincoln-Lemington and attended Westinghouse High School as a freshman. He transferred to Penn Hills High School, a slightly better area, for his last three years.

Still, it wasn’t like Campbell was an instant success. He could have easily gone down the wrong path in life if not for the support of his parents and the Young Guns Wrestling Program, which is led by Jody and John Strittmatter.

But, Campbell continued to defy the odds. He worked on his craft and captured a PIAA 170-pound state title as a senior, earning a scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh.

The success continued at Pitt, as Campbell made it to the NCAA Championships both years he was in the lineup. He transferred to Ohio State for his junior and senior season and his accomplishments on the mat continued.

Ironically, Campbell’s career is ending where it started. And, he continues to overachieve in a tough 165-pound weight class.

“I’m just enjoying it,” said Campbell, who dropped from 174 to 165 halfway through the season. “My time doesn’t last forever. I’m about to be done, so I’m walking around just being appreciative, enjoying the moment, and not taking it for granted.

“My freshman year, it was like, ‘I have more years.’ Now, I don’t have any more years. So, with each step, I’m taking it all in. Talking to a few of my high school coaches, they were saying, ‘Just enjoy everything, look up at the lights, and take it all in.’ That’s what I’ve been doing.”

That carried over to the mat at Pittsburgh’s PPG Paints Arena.

After a scoreless first period, Campbell took bottom. Jarrell rode the Buckeyes ace the entire period to earn valuable riding time.

The mistake for Jarrell was taking neutral in the third. Campbell was able to pick the leg and secure a takedown. He followed it up with four near-fall points and earned the 6-0 decision.

“It’s not the first time a few guys went neutral,” Campbell said. “I guess it’s a little bit of a respect thing. I haven’t been turning too many people this year, but I’m threatening there. It’s one of my better positions.

“I don’t do too much on my feet, but at the end, I was able to get a takedown and turn him right away. That pretty much shows why he was hesitant to go down and just decided to keep it neutral.”

Campbell will have another tall order in the night-time session, as he faces former PIAA four-time state high school champion Chance Marsteller, the No. 5 seed from Lock Haven.

If Campbell, who has never made it past the Round of 16 in the championship bracket, wins, he punches his ticket to Friday’s quarterfinal round and is one step closer to reaching the podium and obtaining All-American status.

“Getting close every year, but not enough to get it done,” Campbell said. “So, it definitely gave me my fire for this year. I mean, there is nothing a college wrestler wants to do more than get on that podium.

“I’m just taking it one match at a time, don’t look down in the bracket to see who falls here or what happens here. Anyone can lose, anyone can have their week, so I’m just trying to focus on myself.

“I’m not looking at anything else other than making sure I’m mentally prepared. It’s pretty much just focus on myself, and hopefully, I will get where I want to be at the end of the tournament.”

Despite the pressure of preparing for his last tournament and worrying about getting on the podium, Campbell took time to give back. It was second nature.

Campbell wanted to do something to give the youth in his old neighborhood hope, and maybe they will set goals and take the right path. It’s something Campbell will continue to do even after he graduates.

“I talked to my [Westinghouse] coach, and I gave him a ticket to come here so he could see these things, take pictures, and show these guys what they can set their hopes and dreams for,” Campbell said.

“I’m not saying I will be there in person all the time, but I will definitely be doing little things. I plan on working in Columbus after this, and the money I get will, definitely, be going back to the environment and the community.

“I will definitely be involved in some way, somehow. I might not be able to show my face, but I will be involved.”

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