February 15, 2012

Beyond the Mat: Alex Henry

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 13th story in the series.

Most everything about Alex Henry and his life is big. The 285-pound heavyweight towers above everyone he meets. He is from Texas, where everything is bigger, and he was recruited to play defensive tackle on several collegiate football teams, a spot reserved for large individuals. According to Henry, he was approached by and considered big southern schools as well.

Somehow, despite everything, he ended up in Lancaster, Pa. at the relatively small F&M, a move that not even he thought he would ever make.

"I knew it was in Pennsylvania and I knew it had wrestling," Henry said of F&M, recalling his first experience visiting the College. "I knew it was a liberal arts school and not much else. I knew what the coaches told me, but that was really it."

"I did my official visit to F&M and the coaches told me that had a plan, a dream, and a vision," Henry continued. "I bought into that."

Fortunately for the Diplomats, both head coach Mike Rogers and assistant coach Matt Greenberg had developed a rather convincing hook to get Henry to buy in. The heavyweight fondly recalls a conversation he had with both coaches in the wrestling office during one particular visit to F&M. He remembers it fondly because, at the end of the day, it was what the coaching staff told him there that convinced him F&M was where he needed to be.

"They sat me down, and they did this to all the freshmen, we were in their office. At that time, I was looking at UNC-Chapel Hill, I was looking at Duke, and other schools like that," Henry said. "They looked at me and said, 'You can go to UNC or you can go to Duke, but you'll just be another name. We're doing something special here and we have a clean slate. You can come here and rewrite the whole wrestling history here at F&M. You can have your name engraved in history.'"

"I just think that's cool. They want to do something special and they want to turn this program around. I believe in them."

So far, Henry admitted his transition to the Division I level has not been as smooth as he might have liked coming out of high school. After enjoying a lot of success on the mat as a senior, he hasn't seen the same number of wins as a freshman in college, a fact that weighs on him a little bit.

"It's tough, it's very tough," Henry said of the transition. "I went to private school in Virginia, which wrestles in prep leagues, and I was pretty dominant. I think I lost a total of maybe five matches senior year and I think I have at least quadrupled that so far this year. It's been pretty mentally challenging and daunting, but I guess it's baptism by fire as Coach Rogers likes to say."

Despite the struggles Henry has had, the discipline that comes from that is one of the things he enjoys most about the sport. In Henry's eyes, wrestling is a bit unique from most other sports, as it demands so much more out of its participants.

"Wrestling is one of those sports that makes you suffer through it and it makes you much more mentally tough," Henry said. "You're able to take on a lot more stuff in life and get through it easier than before you started wrestling and before you put a lot of time into it. It's just one of those sports that demands so much of you that, at the end of the day, you realize you can do so much more if you remain mentally tough."

"In my first year of high school, my advisor was the wrestling coach. I was originally going to play hockey because I played hockey when I grew up in Russia. He kind of laughed and said, 'No, you're not.' It was sort of forced upon me, but it ended up being a really good thing for me and I really enjoyed it."

Although for most of his time in Russia he was too young to notice any significant differences in his life compared to the one he leads in America, Henry has fond memories of his two stints living there.

"Because of my dad's work as a tax consultant for PriceWaterhouse Cooper's, we lived in Russia for roughly ten years on two different trips," Henry said. "On the first trip, I was about two years old and then we moved back to the States where we lived in New York for a couple years. Then we moved back Russia for about five years. I've kind of lived all over the place."

"There's not much I miss [about Russia]," he added. "I didn't really know it was different than America at the time. Looking back on it, I probably missed out on a lot of stuff. You never really thinking about in the moment though."

Academically, Henry is fascinated by the world of politics and hopes to be a lawyer someday.

"A lot of people tell me I would be a good lawyer," Henry said.

While he still has three years to shape his legacy, Henry said he hopes that people at F&M simply remember him as being a good overall guy.

Like most other things in his life, Henry is aiming to achieve big things at F&M. He views his time at F&M as an opportunity to achieve something special, to take a clean slate and create a legacy out of it. He is just one member of a large and talented freshman class tasked with achieving that goal.

The initial going may be difficult. However, as Henry says, wrestling "makes you suffer through it" and, in the end, those who work through it are better on the other end. Like most everyone on F&M's roster, these initial steps have been difficult and have worn on Henry. However, thanks to hard work, perseverance, and a coaching staff that truly believes brighter times lie ahead, the future looks bright for F&M wrestling.