After having played football for his first two years at Camden High School, Xavier White decided to hang up his cleats and dive head first into wrestling following his sophomore season.
The move paid off as the Bulldog senior became the first signee of the 2015 recruiting class for the Penn State University-Fayette wrestling program. White’s signing came in a ceremony held last week inside the Camden High media center where he was joined by members of his family as well as the Bulldogs’ wrestling staff.
White, who qualified for last weekend’s AAA Upper State individual championships at 195 pounds, said he did the best thing for himself by not playing football and devoting himself to wrestling for his final two years of high school.
"It’s like getting a divorce and getting re-married," he said before adding that he totally immersed himself into wrestling by his junior campaign.
Camden head wrestling coach Joey Hendrix downplayed the idea that White’s not playing football made him a better wrestler. Much of the senior’s success, he said, came to his maturing both mentally and physically, as he got older.
"The improvement for Xavier was going to happen either way," Hendrix said. "He controls his body more now; he’s in the best shape of his life compared to what he was three years ago but that probably would have happened anyhow. He understands what it takes to wrestle at a high level.
"He’s in much better shape, now, and he’s stronger. That’s the biggest difference."
White concluded a high school career in which he won 71 of his 104 matches which included a 31-5 mark this past season. He was a AAA state qualifier as both a junior and senior.
Hendrix said White made himself a success both on the wrestling mat as well as in the classroom with a strong work ethic.
"Early on," Hendrix said, "Xavier showed the attitude that he would work really hard to get what he wanted. I’ve had him in class and he works very hard in class. He not only wants to be an athlete but a student-athlete.
"Fortunately for him, he has this opportunity to go to the next level, further his education and, hopefully, become a better person for it."
In seeking out a college, White looked for the best fit academically, socially and athletically. He found what he was searching for in the campus located in Lemont Furnace in the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania.
"It has my major of electrical engineering and it is a very open community. They gave me a chance and, I took it," White said of his final decision. "I’m just happy and ready to go to the next level."
The Roaring Lions compete in the Penn State University Athletic Conference which includes other PSU branch campuses in a state which has a proud tradition of wrestling at the high school and college level. Hendrix said White will encounter an entirely different style of wrestling in college, where pins are few and far between.
"The biggest change in college is that it’s a lot of freestyle wrestling. It’s more takedowns and riding time," he said. "You don’t see a lot of pins so, it’s different than in high school. In high school wrestling, we try to pin people more often. In college, it’s very hard to pin somebody so you have to adjust and make sure that you get the first takedown and make sure the riding time is there; that’s how they win matches.
"Xavier has to get used to going a full match and not necessarily getting that pin, but going out there and competing on that level."
White admitted he will have to adjust to a "new" game but said he is ready to take on the challenge. He anticipates wrestling in the 197-pound weight division during his entire college career.
"It’s going to be a lot more freestyle and not as much folk style. I can adjust to it," he said of the biggest change between high school and college wrestling. "You just keep working on it. You practice more and you practice harder."
Working hard is something which Xavier White knows plenty about. Hendrix has seen what White brings to the table every day in practice. The senior set the example for his Bulldog teammates and the CHS boss expects nothing less once White heads to college.
"Not just on the mat but into the wrestling room itself," Hendrix said, "Xavier ’s a leader who makes other people around him work harder because he strives to make himself the best that he can. He works hard at his craft and he’s trying new things all the time. Sometimes, he tries too many things. In college, he’ll have to hone in on doing some specific things; he’ll do that and he’ll do well."
Minutes after signing the paperwork with PSU-Fayette, White said he was more excited than he was nervous as this day approached. "It’s a very big day. I never saw it coming, but it’s here now," he said with a smile.
And White closed his remarks by saying he is ready to begin the next chapter in his life which will come far from home. The distance, he said, does not bother him and he prepared himself for this scenario when looking at colleges.
"Not at all," he said when asked about going to a school so far from home. "I was ready to go in the first place."