Beyond the Mat: Matt Fullowan
Tim Jackson, the Head Editor of the school newspaper, has agreed to join the wrestling program for a season-long series of articles highlighting the program and it's wrestlers through stories from both on and off the mat. Tim has put together an extensive series of article topics. Below is the second story in the series.
Sitting across the desk from Matt Fullowan, I couldn't tell I was speaking with the top-ranked 174-pounder in the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association. With his F&M baseball cap, wrestling sweatshirt and blue jeans, neither his physical appearance nor his attitude lent itself to that of a two-time captain.
His humble nature was apparent as he answered every question in a thoughtful, reasoned manner. It resembled more of a conversation with another student than an interview with a premier athlete.
"Loyal, dedicated, and he's also one of the toughest kids I know," assistant coach Matt Greenberg said of Fullowan. "He's one of the guys [the coaches] always go to, and he leads by example. That's how I would describe Matt Fullowan."
It's easy to look back and tab Fullowan as one of the better wrestlers in the EIWA. Hindsight is always perfect, and the list of accomplishments Fullowan has assembled is both long and impressive. However, coming out of high school, one never would have predicted the trajectory Fullowan's career has taken.
As an unheralded high school wrestler, many of the big division one programs along the east coast looked past Fullowan in favor of what they considered to be the sure thing. Fullowan received little attention, and even fewer offers, from the major wrestling programs in the region. In fact, for a while, Fullowan was not entirely sure wrestling was even in his future, as he grappled with the decision to play football or wrestle in college.
"I was mixed up about whether to play football or wrestle," Fullowan said. "I wasn't sure which one I was going to do. I decided whichever one was going to get me into the better school, that was the one I was going to do. It came down to a last minute decision with my parents, and we decided on Franklin and Marshall for wrestling, and I don't regret it at all."
Perhaps recognizing his status as an unheralded recruit at the beginning his wrestling career, Fullowan has been willing to work with his coaching staff ever since he set foot on campus. His respect both for head coach Mike Rogers and Greenberg was obvious throughout the conversation, as he credited them with making him the wrestler he is today. Although his journey is not yet complete, the smile on his face indicated Fullowan couldn't be happier with where he is in his wrestling career.
"[This process] has taught me a lot," Fullowan said. "It's nice to be able to go out now and beat those kids I lost to in high school and kids that placed above me, it's really great. That's one of the reasons I'm doing it, and I love it."
LEAVING A MARK
Although Fullowan has left his mark on the mat, he has certainly made his mark off it as well. While he is a special wrestler, talking to both Fullowan and his coaches revealed that he is even more special as a human being, something that cannot be said about every athlete in America these days.
"If Matt wasn't good at wrestling, I would still love him and I would still talk about him the same way," Greenberg said. "The fact that he's really good at wrestling and is really good at what he does doesn't factor in to what I say about him as far as him as a person. We have developed good human beings on this team, and I think it started with him."
As an active member of Lancaster Alliance Wrestling (LAW), Fullowan has made his presence felt in the larger community as well. As a wrestling camp for the local community, many of Lancaster's young, aspiring wrestlers participate in the program.
What's truly interesting and special about his involvement is that, for as much as he gives to LAW and those he works with, he is truly appreciative of his role with the organization and claims to have received just as much from the program as he has brought to it.
"Whenever Coach Rogers and Coach Greenberg can't run it, I'm always willing to go and help out," Fullowan said. "I love teaching the little kids and just being around them. It also helps me develop my teaching skills and really makes me think about what I need work on and what I need to focus on … and that really helps me out on the mat when I'm wrestling."
"LAW has really helped Fullowan as a person," head coach Mike Rogers said. "He's a great teacher and the kids love him. He knows how to relate to them from the six and seven year olds to the high school kids, and he keeps them all involved and engaged. The kids really enjoy having him as an instructor. He's kind of developing his own fan base through that club."
For all his wrestling and community accomplishments, Fullowan has not forgotten about his role in the classroom either. Rarely in division one athletics does one come across a student-athlete who truly personifies the term. But, then again, Fullowan's career thus far has not necessarily been about conforming to the status quo.
After learning of all his accomplishments and his workmanlike approach to both wrestling and his life outside the sport, it should not come as a surprise that he has placed himself in a position to potentially receive a dream job right out of college. What may surprise most people, however, is how he went about doing it. Consistently training and working at an internship with Logan Circle, a fixed-asset management firm in Philadelphia, Fullowan
"I worked on the high-yield bond trading desk," Fullowan said. "I took a train from Lancaster, I think I caught the 5:30 a.m. train, and I got [to Philadelphia] by 7:30, and they would let me leave by three to get a train to get back [to F&M] so I could wrestle by five."
Many college students would consider either training for a division one sport or working at Logan Circle to be a full summer. While the long hours and dedication has not turned into a direct job offer yet, Fullowan is still confident.
"I'm still waiting on that phone call," he said with a grin.
By working with his coaches and always maintaining a level of work ethic unfamiliar to most, Fullowan has transformed from an unheralded high school wrestler into a top-tier collegiate athlete. Although he won't talk about it, Fullowan has a silent confidence about him. It's the same confidence every elite athlete has, although, unlike Fullowan, many cannot seem to carry it with humility.
This is perhaps what has made Fullowan truly special over the course of his journey. He has handled his responsibilities and success with class and, for as great an impact his coaches have had on him, he has undoubtedly impacted them in ways he may never fully appreciate.
"When I first got here, things were kind of in disarray," Greenberg said. "Matt was the only reason I stayed with it. It would have been very easy to say [F&M] is not the place I need to be, this is not going to work. But Matt came to me and said, 'Make me better.' We were basically duct-taped together for the rest of the year."
In just 15 minutes with Fullowan, it became so easy to appreciate the kind of person he is. As one of the prominent faces of the program, Fullowan has handled himself in a way many people would not. His wrestling accomplishments aside, Fullowan has demonstrated he is one of the better human beings you could possibly hope to meet.
Fullowan is confident without being cocky, humble, and demonstrates himself as a true leader without being overbearing. He has struck a perfect balance.
As his final season as a Diplomat commences, it seems as if Fullowan has little left to prove. But, knowing him, Fullowan is not satisfied with where he is. It's a never-ending process, and if his senior year is anything like the first three, then Fullowan will make the most of it.