If you saw James English in street clothes, you probably wouldn't give him a second glance.

At just shy of 150 pounds, he's the definition of average.

But over the weekend, English proved he is anything but average.

An average man doesn't persevere through six seemingly endless years, despite a never-ending series of setbacks.

An average man doesn't continually sacrifice his body, battling one debilitating injury after another, in a sport than can be brutal in its physical demands.

And an average man doesn't quit when everyone, including his head coach, believes he should.

No, James English is not average.

This past weekend, English finished seventh in the 149-pound weight class, earned All-America recognition and was key member of Penn State's fourth-straight NCAA Division I wrestling championship.

It was the culmination of a career that was unlikely from the start and unbelievable at the end.

English was not a big-name recruit coming out of Central York High School. Yes, he had outstanding career with the Panthers, with 150 career wins and a third-place finish at 145 pounds at the 2008 PIAA Class AAA Tournament. But he did not boast multiple state championships, like many of his more-heralded teammates at powerhouse Penn State.


Then, almost as soon as he arrived in Happy Valley, the injuries started piling up. He missed more than two years because of those ailments. After redshirting his freshman year, he was granted a second redshirt season because of his medical issues. And even when he was healthy, he struggled to earn a berth in PSU's star-studded lineup.

When English decided to return for his sixth season, his head coach, Cael Sanderson, was ready to tell him it wasn't worth the effort, especially given his myriad medical problems.

"I was almost giving up on him there for a while," an emotional Sanderson told the Centre Daily Times' Travis Johnson after English earned his All-America status. "But he just kept coming and coming and it's just perseverance. It's not even about the team race. It's about a kid who just kept fighting. To go out with a win in a crucial time, that's a big deal. That's an emotional deal. That was pretty cool."

Yes it was.

English earned his All-America status despite even more recent health issues, including multiple bulging discs in his neck and the need for surgery on his both his shoulders.

Most people, given English's hurdles, would be ecstatic to finish seventh in the nation.

English, of course, was not.

"My goal was to be national champ," he told the CDT. "I don't think anyone really believed I could do that except for me, so it kind of sucks not being able to do that, but it feels great going out with a win in my last match ever. I'm just glad I could never stop fighting after six years. I was able to make it here and just go out and score some points for my team here at the end."

Now English can move on with the rest of his life. He already has a degree in chemical engineering and he enrolled in an energy, business and finance program in the fall.

He will almost certainly be a success in whatever career path he chooses.

But when asked by the CDT if he would return for a seventh year at PSU, despite his many injury problems, English didn't hesitate.

"Absolutely I would," he said.

That is not the answer an average man would give, but it's exactly the answer you would expect from James English.

Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sheiser@yorkdispatch.com.