Nate Brown wrestles Matt Reed of Oklahoma University in a match in January 2013. (Liz Cornell/B&W photo)

Nate Brown leads Lehigh wrestling both on and off the mat

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In high school, Nate Brown was a three-sport athlete who excelled in wrestling, football and track and field. When it came time for recruitment, however, Brown decided to pursue his passion of wrestling at the collegiate level.

“I came for my official visit in fall of 2010 and fell in love with Lehigh,” Brown said. “The team was focused and hard-working, and coach Pat Santoro is one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. He is the definition of character and class, and I wanted to learn from him.”

Brown’s decision to wrestle for Lehigh has certainly served him well, as the senior has achieved tremendous success and garnered significant recognition on and off the mat. He is currently the third-ranked wrestler in the country in the 184-pound weight class.

Brown started for the team immediately as a freshman at the 174-pound weight class. In his rookie campaign, he finished with a 17-6 overall record and qualified for the NCAA Championships after finishing in fourth place at the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association conference tournament. He was unable to compete in the NCAA Championships, however, due to injury.

In his sophomore season, Brown once again impressed by compiling a 12-4 record and winning the EIWA championship at the 174-pound weight class. This time he was able to compete in the NCAA Championships, where he gained a win before he was defeated in the second round consolation match.

For his junior year, Brown deferred his eligibility and moved up a weight class to 184.

“The idea of deferring eligibility was to allow my body to grow and get stronger,” Brown said. “During a redshirt year, you are able to focus on some more individual needs that my wrestling needed and take away the pressure of performing week in and out. It is the best environment for growth to occur.”

Wrestling coach Pat Santoro agreed that Brown’s year of deferred eligibility allowed for his strong 17-3 start to his senior year and his potential to perform at the highest level in the final weeks of the season.

“Nate can compete with the best wrestlers in the country,” Santoro said. “Taking a year off has put his mind and body in a place where he’s ready to win a national championship.”

As successful and well-respected as Brown is due to his work on the mat, he is equally respected for his work off the mat, both within his team and the Lehigh athletics department. Brown has been a member of the Lehigh Athletics Leadership Academy since his freshman year. He has participated in several other athletic leadership programs, including Personal Responsibility In Determining Excellence, Emerging Leaders and Leadership Legacies, which “provide student-athletes with leadership knowledge and the skills necessary to lead themselves and others,” according to the Lehigh Sports website.

“I have found amazing things within the leadership academies here,” Brown said.  “I am passionate about leadership and strive to grow myself to be the best potential leader I can become.”

Julie Ammary, program director of the Lehigh Athletics Leadership Academy, said she has seen the evolution of Brown’s leadership firsthand.

“Nate Brown came in as a freshman very eager to grow and make the most of his experiences,” Ammary said. “He has become very self-aware and an incredible mentor for his teammates. He can connect so well with people across all ages.”

Brown has also leveraged the leadership skills he developed in the academy programs by serving as a Student-Athlete Mentor for the past three years. As a Student-Athlete Mentor, Brown has acclimated numerous first-year students to dealing with the academic, athletic and social pressures of being a collegiate student athlete and guided them through their transitions at Lehigh.

His leadership has also made a large impact on his teammates.

“Nate always seems to know what’s best and younger guys really look up to him for guidance and advice,” junior wrestler Mitch Minotti said. “He is one of the hardest workers on the team and is always trying to learn and get better every day. His leadership is so effective because he realizes everyone has ups and downs and can relate to everyone on the team.”

Brown hopes to enhance his leadership skills even more as a fifth-year student, as he is applying to the educational leadership Master’s degree program at Lehigh. Since he deferred his junior year of eligibility, Brown will be completing his fourth year of eligibility as a graduate student, and he has big goals he hopes to accomplish in the remainder of his time at Lehigh.

“I have the goal to win an NCAA title this year and next,” Brown said.

The wrestling team will also look to Brown’s contributions on and off the mat to achieve its collective goals as well.

“Nate keeps people accountable, which is a key to the success of our team,” Minotti said.

As the team prepares to enter the most important stretch of its season with the EIWA and NCAA championships ahead, one can be certain that Brown will be helping to lead the way on the team’s quest for a title.

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