For The Daily Reporter
There was a time when New Palestine native Brian Harvey never envisioned attending or wrestling at West Point.
The letters arrived during his junior year at Cathedral High School, but he had a misconception about the United States Military Academy located in New York.
“I started receiving recruiting letters from them my junior year, but being from the Midwest and not really knowing the school, I would throw them away because I thought it was some Division III school,” Harvey said.
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All that changed when the coaching staff reached out to Cathedral wrestling head coach Sean McGinley.
“I remember him just giving me an earful because I did not take the opportunity seriously. I am glad he yelled at me, and put some sense in my head,” Harvey said.
Despite the contact with his high school coach, it still looked as if Harvey would attend Purdue, where he was set to sign and his family had quite a tradition.
“Though I received a letter from West Point, I still wanted to go to Purdue, and I was going to sign with them on the next Monday. That Sunday I received a call from the USMA coaching staff asking if I wanted to go on a visit,” Harvey recalled. “I was hesitant but when they mentioned the free education and I would get paid to go to school, my family and I agreed that I should seek out the opportunity.”
Harvey immediately contacted the Purdue coaching staff and explained his desire to give West Point a chance. With his recruitment still left open, the Boilermakers coaches didn’t hold any grudges, but little did they know one trip would change his course.
“That visit is when I realized USMA was something special,” he said. “I was sold, a place like this is a place where I can grow, compete in wrestling and not be distracted by the outside influences that comes with most other colleges.”
West Point also has become a place where Harvey has set a legacy on the mats, picking up right where his high school career left off as he was a state champion at 160 pounds his senior year.
In his first season with the Black Knights, Harvey won 13 matches and was 4-4 in dual matches.
However, it was his sophomore season that garnered everyone’s attention.
Harvey finished the season 30-13 at 174 pounds en route to earning third place honors at the New York State Collegiate wrestling tournament, two wins at the NCAA Championships and runner-up at the FILA Junior Nationals.
As a junior, he went 25-11 and advanced to the NCAA Championships.
However, Harvey admits his greatest achievement took place this past season, his last with the Black Knights.
“A special moment from the season came on senior night, where I beat Casey Kent from the University of Penn, who was ranked in the top ten in the country,” Harvey said.
Kent later took fourth at the NCAA Championships.
That win solidified his confidence, “and it was great that my parents saw that as well,” said Harvey, who advanced to the Round of 16 in this year’s NCAA Tournament. As Harvey reflects on his career, he defines it as a successful one, despite not seizing his primary goal.
“When I look back at my wrestling career, even though I was not an All-American as I had planned, I believe that I had a successful career because I can look back and know that I gave my all in each practice, each season and I left everything I had on the mat,” he said. “I finished as a three-time national qualifier, a two-time All-Academy champion, a two-time runner-up at New York State’s Collegiate wrestling tournament, and I was ranked in the top 20 all season.”
With his time at West Point wrapping up, Harvey said he is not the same person who entered the academy.
“The United States Military Academy at West Point has been a transformational experience, where I have seen myself grow, along with my teammates and classmates, into men and women of character,” said Harvey.
Harvey said he remembers an encounter with a professor during his freshman year that sums up his experience.
“They put me into honors U.S. History because I did well in my general Russian History class. I went to my instructor saying, ‘I think as a wrestler and a cadet, I can’t handle the work load of an honors class.’ My instructor put his hand on my shoulder and said, ‘At no point of your 47 month experience at the Academy is it supposed to be easy, so go on and sit down,’” Harvey said. “Instructors and mentors like that at the academy is why, through adversity and hardship, I have grown.”
Harvey is set to commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in May and will be a graduate assistant with the wrestling team, something he is excited about.
“I look forward to that experience, especially because my brother (Ben) will be a freshman at the academy,” he said.
Then it is on to Basic Officer Learning Course in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, as a Field Artillery Officer.
“I became fascinated with field artillery after reading its importance in the Napoleonic Wars and Civil War,” said Harvey, who has a five-year commitment with the Army.
And while a career in the military awaits, Harvey said he will never venture too far from wrestling.
“Wrestling has been a part of my life since my youth minister saw my brother and I fighting in church when I was six and recommended we go to the Dragon Wrestling Club,” Harvey said. “I will never leave the sport. I can see myself coaching at whatever post I am at because I believe the values of hard work and grit that I learned in wrestling must be passed on to future generations.”