Off of the mat, sophomore Troy Letters is about as simple as they come.
“I do my school work, but other than that, after school, wrestling is my life," he says. "I go hunting and fishing, but other than that, I just wrestle.”
On the mat, Letters tries to keep things simple as well: He wrestles and he wins. The kid from Shaler, Pennsylvania has compiled a record of 22-0 in dual matches and has become an All-American in just his first season. As a result of his outstanding performance so far this season, Letters is ranked number one in America.
The same drive and determination that made Letters a first-team High School All-American, the top high school prospect in all of Pennsylvania, and a top-five recruit in the nation in any weight has rocketed him to the top of the collegiate ranks.
“The competitiveness of this sport is unprecedented, and even though it is a team sport, it’s more about individual effort," Letters says. "The harder I work and the more sacrifices I make, it’s better off for me, so I really enjoy that part of this sport.”
A family tradition
This is something that Letters, a political science major, has been working for his whole life. When he was eight, he carried on the tradition that his grandfather, father and uncles began earlier in their lives.
“My dad got me into wrestling when I was young, and he has helped me so much," Letters says. "He put a wrestling room into our living room when I first started, and then eventually built an entire room into a wrestling room, which he would wrestle me in, and really put me through some intense training.”
It took years before Letters was finally able to best his father on the family mat. “I was in ninth grade, and I started to get a little bigger. We had one match that went into overtime and I beat him, and ever since then, we haven’t wrestled.”
Letters is thankful that his parents devoted so much time and energy to help him on his journey toward his goals. “I went to camps all over the country, and then they got me into free-style wrestling. I also had a coach come to my house in the morning before I went to school to help train me at five in the morning. So they really put a lot of time and money into helping me train.”
Head Coach Greg Strobel says that Letters had to really work to put himself in this position. “Coming out of Shaler High School, this was a great opportunity for Troy to come to a high-profile Division I program and also reap the benefits of the academics. But he had to really buckle down in his junior and senior years (of high school) to boost his grades to come up to the level they needed to be at. Ever since then, he has had no problems.”
“Troy is a major team leader," Strobel adds. "He trains hard, he does all of the right things, and we couldn’t be happier with his development both on and off of the mat.”
Letters says the combination of strong academics and a great coaching staff are what drew him to Lehigh. “Coach Strobel was the Olympic coach, former assistant Pat Santoro was great and Chris Ayres and Kerry McCoy are terrific workout partners. You just can’t beat the coaching staff at Lehigh, and obviously the school is known for academics, so that played a key role in me choosing to come here.”
The laid-back Letters says that he would like to become a graduate assistant and possibly get his MBA after graduation. But for now, he is just focusing on getting his degree. He also has some things on the mat that he would like to accomplish as well.
“I’ll train free-style this summer, and see how I fare at the U.S. Nationals (in Las Vegas), and then that will be my deciding factor in maybe trying out for the Olympics. But for now, I am just focused on this season, taking it one match at a time, and making sure that I am prepared every time I go out on the mat. I just want to cut down on the number of mistakes I make when I’m out there.”
Letters could not be happier with his decision to come to Lehigh or with the great teammates he has. “This team is really close, closer than any other team in the country, in terms of hanging out, and getting along. We do joke with each other a lot. Other teams don’t really seem to understand us. There are a lot of close friends on this team, and I would not choose any other team over this one.”
Posted on Thursday, December 18, 2003