Gray reflects on past at Edinboro

Category:  Sports
Wednesday, October 5th, 2016 at 9:02 PM

Jacob Gray was on track to graduate from Edinboro University with his degree in physical education and was to begin teaching and coaching wrestling.

Then 9/11 happened.

Gray’s little brother was wrestling at the U.S. Naval Academy at the time.

“He was a plebe, in his freshman year at the Naval Academy. I’m in class wondering what’s going to happen to my brother,” Gray said.

He would go on to talk about how he really didn’t understand the officer program with the Navy and how it worked. He didn’t know if they (the Navy) were going to graduate his brother early and send him off to war or what would happen. But because of the strong ties with the Naval Academy’s wrestling program, he began asking questions as to how one becomes a Marine Corps officer.

This search led him to Marine Corps Officer recruiters. During Gray’s junior and senior year, he went to officer candidate school (OCS) at Quantico Virginia. Gray was commissioned as a Marine Corp second lieutenant in July of 2005.

“11 years later, here I am, still in the Marine Corps. I never anticipated being in the Marine Corps this long,” Gray said.

“But with the close knit family atmosphere of being at Edinboro, as well as being on a sports team applied to my everyday life as a Marine Corps officer.”

Over those 11 years Gray was a platoon leader and moved up to executive officer, then to company commander. He served with 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines and did two tours in Iraq. Gray was stationed in the Al Anbar providence of Iraq. On his first deployment he was in a little town known as Haditha. On his second he was stationed on the east side of Fallujah. 

Upon his return he was assigned to Education Command to serve as the Aide-de-Camp for the commanding general in July 2009. In May 2010 he received orders to report to The Basic School to serve as a Warfighting Instructor.

Now Gray is the commander for the recruiting station Houston. Recruiting station Houston covers 2,400 square miles, making it the third largest recruiting station for the Marine Corps in the nation. Every year approximately 900 young men and women become Marines.

“It’s a very fulfilling, humbling, and rewarding experience to be a Marine Corp Officer,” Gray said. Gray was a two time Vermont State wrestling champion, posting a high school record of 126-21. Gray visited several Division one schools like Penn State and Virginia Tech. But Gray fell in love with the small town feel of Edinboro and the personal attention he felt he would receive here.

“Had I gone to another large school with 50,000 kids I would have been just another number. Here at Edinboro, though, I had a personal relationship with the chair of the physical education department,” Gray said.

Gray was a two-time Eastern Wrestling League champion and a four time NCAA Division I qualifier. Gray said that through “sheer determination and discipline alone” Edinboro’s wrestling program was able to compete with the bigger, more well- funded schools. The facilities here at Edinboro build a certain type of character, according to Gray who attributes a lot of the attitude to head wrestling coach Tim Flynn.

“I will tell anybody that will listen that Tim Flynn is the best wrestling coach ever. He (Flynn) really knows how to get the most out of his wrestlers and keep them motivated,” Gray said.

Flynn speaks just as highly about Gray. “I always knew he would be successful, [he’s a] team player, leader, “Flynn said.

Gray advises new students to branch out. When he was here he made friends not only on his wrestling team, but also in the physical education department and the business department as well. He says he is still in touch with many of those friends to this day. 

George Schmidt is a sports reporter for EdinboroNow. He can be reached at sports.spectator@gmail.com.

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