Bucknell University’s location in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, sits not far from a region in our state that not long ago enjoyed tremendous prosperity thanks to the flourishing coal industry. Unfortunately, as coal usage has lessened through the years, and many of these small, blue-collar towns in our area are struggling.
Mount Carmel is one such town. Located about 35 miles to the southeast of Lewisburg, Mount Carmel has seen its population dwindle through the decades, and poverty is rampant. While we might not be able to bring back the coal, the Bucknell community is trying hard to help revitalize the town, and help Mount Carmel keep its identity.
Through a partnership with the Mother Maria Kaupas Center, Bucknell students and faculty have conducted research and initiated volunteer service projects aimed at assessing the community’s needs and creating plans for a sustainable future.
One Bucknell student who has participated in the research is senior Tyler Greene. A native of Easton, Pennsylvania, Tyler is also a four-year member of the Bison wrestling team, and he is serving as a team captain this year. He is a sociology major who hopes to one day go into public policy or administration.
We recently caught up with Tyler and chatted about his work in Mount Carmel, his time with the Bucknell wrestling team, and the team’s prospects this season
BB: Tell us about the work you did in Mount Carmel last summer.
TG: I interned at the Mother Maria Kaupas Center in Mount Carmel. It’s a non-profit Catholic organization there. I worked with Jake Betz and Carl Milofsky, who is a sociology professor at Bucknell. My job was to create an assessment of a summer camp that they were introducing in the Mount Carmel school district. They started a summer camp for kids in grades 5 through 8, and they wanted me to create an assessment of what was working well and efficiently, and what needed to be improved. It was important, because if the program was benefiting the community, and they wanted to get an outside source or grant to fund the program, they would have this document that provided an overview of the whole program. I met a lot of really nice people down there, and I had fun working with them.
BB: How meaningful is the work the Bucknell is doing in Mount Carmel?
TG: Mount Carmel is a struggling community right now. A lot of those coal region communities are, because so much of their economic status was built on that coal production. It’s really nice to go there and meet the people from Mount Carmel, because they are still really hard-working people. They care about their community and want to do anything they can to help built it back up. It’s great that Bucknell has stepped up to help, and they really appreciate that we are giving the time and showing that we care about them. It’s a really cool thing.
BB: You also had the opportunity to present some research. Tell us about that.
TG: I also had an externship with Geisinger, doing research with them. I was studying things like juvenile delinquency while I was at the camp. I presented my research at the Susquehanna Valley Research Symposium in Bloomsburg this summer. It went very well.
BB: You were also a very good football player at Easton Area High School. How did you end up wrestling at Bucknell?
TG: I played football and I wrestled in high school, and I was kind of torn between what I wanted to do in college. As I got older, I realized I was too small to play football, plus I hated the cold weather. So I chose wrestling. I got a questionnaire from Bucknell, and the coaches got back to me pretty quickly. I didn’t know much about Bucknell until the summer when I came out here to wrestle in a tournament. The coaches were really nice, and I started to get serious about it. After doing some research I realized how great a school it was, which was really important. My parents always stressed academics. I worked really hard in high school, so I wanted that hard work to pay off by going to a good school that would give me a great opportunity to succeed. At the time I was getting recruited, the program was at the point where it was still relatively new in terms of coming back. They were starting to have some success, and they needed people to come in and help build the team up. I wanted to be a part of that process.
BB: You came in as a 184-pounder, but now this season you are wrestling in the heavyweight division as the successor to the great Joe Stolfi. How did that come about?
TG: From 184 to 197, I just started to grow from lifting and getting rid of some baby fat from high school. We all kind of knew there would be a hole to fill when Joe left, he was a great wrestler. Our lineup this year, we had a lot of people bunched around the same weight. In the beginning of the year I didn’t do as well in my wrestle-offs. I kind of had to pick between trying to wrestle off and start at 197, or trying to help the team by going up to heavyweight and trying to get bigger and trying to get stronger so that we can have success there. The big thing for me, it doesn’t matter as much where I wrestle, I’m going to put in the same amount of effort to try and succeed. If it’s better for the team, why not try to go up and make something out of it.
BB: As a somewhat undersized heavyweight, what is your plan of attack when going up against much bigger opponents?
TG: I’m definitely a little undersized for a heavyweight. But I think my wrestling style is not like a typical heavyweight. I try to use speed and quickness and take my shots. It’s a matter of capitalizing on that, but it’s also important that early in a match I make it known to my opponent that I’m not just some smaller guy who is going to get pushed around. One of the biggest things for me this season is going to be to try to weather the storm early in the match and try to wear those guys out. Late in the match I want to still have gas in the tank when maybe the guys with the bigger bodies are tired out. At the same time, I am still trying to get bigger and work hard in the weight room.
BB: How would you assess the team at this early point in the season?
TG: The thing about wrestling is that it’s such a long season, so it’s hard to tell this early how good we are. Wrestling probably our two toughest opponents the first two weeks of the season [No. 1 Oklahoma State and No. 12 Lehigh] is really hard, especially with four or five freshmen in the lineup. I think we have a lot of potential. Our ceiling is really high. We have some time to let those young guys improve and get experience. It’s nice that we have a lot of tournaments coming up in the middle of the season, with our dual meet schedule not really picking up until January, so I think we will get better as the year goes along.
BB: As a senior captain, how do you help those first-year wrestlers get acclimated to the program?
TG: The most important thing for me is making them feel welcome and giving them someone that they can talk to. I really stress the quality of just trying to stick through it when things get hard. I know my freshman year I was in a dark spot. I was having trouble getting adjusted to the schoolwork, and wrestling can be really hard, especially during the breaks when most of the students are back home but we are practicing two or three times a day. You just have to stick it through and realize that it gets easier through the years, because it really does.
BB: Was anyone in particular instrumental in helping you get through those early tough times?
TG: It was the coaches. My freshman year, right after the first semester ended and I got my grades back, I was really devastated. I didn’t know who to talk to, so I called up Coach Wirns [Dan Wirnsberger] almost in tears. Wrestling wasn’t going well and school wasn’t going well. But he told me to just stay the course and stick with it. He really helped me get through the winter break, because that’s a really hard time in wrestling. That’s when you are in there going full time, wrestling and lifting a lot. Once I got through my freshman year, being able to hang out with my teammates away from the mat, that’s when I really started to feel welcomed to the team and started to adjust better.
BB: Wrestling is an individual sport, but the team element is still very important, correct?
TG: There are a lot of things that we can’t do that other sports can. Staying here over the breaks really helps us bond as a team. I’ve stayed here for three summers now, just wrestling and working out and trying to get better. Some of my teammates have done the same thing, and that’s a great time to bond when there aren’t many people on campus.
BB: Can you see coaching as part of your future after graduation?
TG: Once you are part of the sport, it’s hard to leave. I can see myself coaching someday. Maybe not at the college level, but the importing thing for me is to try to give back to a sport that has meant so much to me. Wrestling got me to a school like Bucknell, and I’d like to pass some of the things I’ve learned on to kids.
BB: Thanks Tyler, and good luck to you and the Bison this season!