Returned missionary claims national wrestling title

Credit: Photo courtesy Penn State Athletic Department
Credit: Photo courtesy Penn State Athletic Department

Many elite athletes are defined by their success on the field, the court, the course or, maybe, the mat. They’ve reached the pinnacle of their respective sport by focusing on it with laser-like attention, often at the expense of things in their lives.

And then there is Latter-day Saint wrestler Matt Brown. Yes, he is one of the United States’ elite grapplers — but he’s much, much more: A husband. A scholar. A soldier. A returned missionary. An elders quorum leader. And now, a national champion.

The Penn State senior recently won the NCAA wrestling title in the 174-pound division. He claimed the national championship after narrowly defeating Pittsburgh’s Tyler Wilps 5-4 in St. Louis, Missouri. The national championship capped an impressive collegiate career for Brother Brown. He was a three-time All-American for the Nittany Lions and finished with a 118-16 career record.

Brother Brown, 25, is believed to be the first returned missionary to win a Division 1 NCAA wrestling title.

“It was awesome,” he said in an interview with reporters minutes after his final college match.

His coach Cael Sanderson, a fellow member, said Brother Brown had long dreamed of reaching the top of the winner’s podium. “He’s done everything we asked of him.”

Casey Cunningham, Penn State’s head assistant coach, joked with reporters after the final match that the returned-missionary-cum-national-champion would likely celebrate his victory “with chicken wings and chocolate milk.”

Winning an NCAA wrestling championship is merely the latest “scrapbook” moment in Matt Brown’s young life. After winning multiple state titles at Utah’s Cyprus High School, he served a mission to Mozambique and Angola.

Day-to-day missionary work offered few traditional training opportunities for a promising wrestler — so Elder Brown utilized service opportunities to help stay in shape. He and his companions often dug deep holes where members and other neighbors buried their garbage according to the local customs.

When he returned from his mission, he enrolled at Penn State in State College, Pennsylvania. There he met and later baptized Lauren Hemrick. Soon the two were dating and later married. They were sealed in the Salt Lake Temple in 2012.

A high honor roll student, he is also a three-time academic All-American at Penn State and serves in the elders quorum presidency in the State College 1st Ward, Altoona Pennsylvania Stake.

He is also serves in the school’s Army ROTC program and will soon be commissioned an officer in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. @JNSwensen

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