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Wrestler Vinnie Wagner juggles med school, mats

[ 1 ] January 10, 2012 |

The course is called Thermodynamics, and the name alone sounds like a class fully capable of melting your brain.

“It made my head hurt every single day,” Vinnie Wagner said. “Probably my least favorite class in college.”

Courses like Thermodynamics and Electrical Circuits drove Wagner off the mat three years when when he couldn’t find the time to double-major in biomedical engineering and Iowa wrestling.

Admittedly, the state champion from Osage didn’t know how to prioritize his time then.

“I’d be up until 3 in the morning studying for my exams, getting my homework done and waking up at 6 to go lift and trying to go to practice that afternoon running on three hours of sleep,” he said. “It absolutely drained me that year. And the sophomore year is the toughest in engineering. You’ve got all these tough classes all at the same time, homework due every single day, tests coming up every week and I looked ahead and I’m like, ‘If I do this I’m going to die.’ ”

So Wagner left the Iowa wrestling team, but he didn’t completely quit the Hawkeyes. He went to every home dual and sat in the stands in Carver-Hawkeye Arena wondering why he wasn’t down on the floor with his old teammates.

He sat there kicking a few questions around in his head. How many wrestlers have the opportunity to compete for the Hawkeyes? How many students survive biomedical engineering and get into med school? Why can’t wrestling and school fit into the same schedule?

“I knew if I didn’t try it at least one more time,” he said, “I’d be kicking myself the rest of my life.”

Wagner rejoined the Hawkeyes in the fall of 2009. He said he learned to prioritize his time better when his longtime girlfriend and now wife, Allison, moved to Iowa City.

Now Wagner is juggling medical school and wrestling for the Hawkeyes. Iowa coach Tom Brands says it might be unprecedented for a Division I starter to take on med school at the same time. Others say it’s borderline crazy to try both simultaneously.

“Not once have I heard him sigh or there was a pause (like), ‘Coach, you’re asking a lot of me,’ ” Brands said earlier in the season. “It’s always upbeat.”

Wagner is 5-4 this season at 184 pounds, with all of his defeats against ranked opponents. He said the first- semester juggling turned out well.

“I thought it would be a lot worse than it was,” he said. “I was prepared for the worst and it wasn’t the worst.”

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Category: Wrestling

About Andy Hamilton: University of Iowa graduate Andy Hamilton is originally from Williams, Iowa, and started at the Des Moines Register in August after 12 years at the Press-Citizen. He covers wrestling for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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