Wheeling and dealing; Joe Wheeling talks wrestling and civil engineering role

Category:  Sports
Friday, November 26th, 2021 at 3:21 PM
Wheeling and dealing; Joe Wheeling talks wrestling and civil engineering role  by Nate Steis
Photo courtesy of D-Max Photography

BRIDGEPORT, W. Va. - For those who do not know Joe Wheeling, they may think he is a star point guard or a gun slinging quarterback when looking at the title of this article. However, the title is simply a play on his last name and the dealing of punishment he used to deliver in his technical style on the wrestling mat. 

The Edinboro, Pennsylvania native, is a December 2019 graduate of West Virginia University where he was a four-year member of the Mountaineers wrestling program. Concurrently, he studied civil engineering and geology, a major that is difficult without the pressure of being a Division I student-athlete. With a great deal of sacrifice, hard work, and crucial time management, here Wheeling is almost two years post his college graduation. 

He’s currently employed as a Project Consultant at Civil & Environmental Consultants Inc. (CEC) out of the company’s Bridgeport, West Virginia office. There, he has earned the opportunity to work on the Donald Trump administration project of building a wall to separate the United States border from the border of Mexico differently. 

This project allowed him to spend around 15 months in Texas before returning north to work on a variety of large bridge projects. Being almost two years out of college, Wheeling is nearing a next step in his career, which features him being a full-time civil engineer for four years in order to then study for and take the Principles and Practice of Engineering Examination (PE Exam). 

This examination is a common achievement for civil engineers as it awards them with the distinction of having an engineering license, an achievement which helps them place into additional job opportunities they would have not previously qualified for. Previously, Wheeling passed the Fundamentals of Engineering Examination when he was working in Texas. In a few more years, his examination process as an engineer will probably be complete. 

“I study here and there when I have some time,” he said when referring to the PE exam. “I will absolutely take that as soon as possible when I am eligible.” 

Before his world was so wrapped up in engineering, Wheeling was a lightweight wrestler for the Mountaineers. He was someone who did not just have engineering coursework on top of his duties of being a Division I student-athlete. For the Erie County product, he dealt with the injury bug during his time at West Virginia. He overcame two major knee injuries, one of which made him decide that returning for another season was not something he wanted to endure. 

“It was a tough call,” Wheeling explained. “It is going to sound a little sad, but I was just tired of getting disappointed with being injured. It is one of those things where you are really busting your butt for five years and it just got to be injury after injury and surgery after surgery. I just knew it was time to move on.” 

Oddly enough, a coach he knew for a good portion of his life would take the helm of WVU wrestling in his last season of competition. This coach was former Edinboro University Head Wrestling Coach and current WVU Head Wrestling Coach, Tim Flynn. Flynn hosted a collection of camps that Wheeling and his General McLane teammates would go to since their middle school days, making for a reunion when he was a senior in his school. 

Ultimately though, Wheeling’s best season of college wrestling would come in his redshirt-sophomore season as he was a Big 12 Conference All-Academic Team selection, a WVU Student Athlete of the Week, was the starter at 141 pounds for the Mountaineers, won 11 matches, and placed fifth at the Big 12 Championships. 

Overall, his career at WVU would end with 21 victories to his credit, this after a high school career that included 133 victories, three trips to the state tournament, a PIAA runner-up finish as a senior in 2014, and two regional titles. 

“It is cool looking back at that. In our high school wrestling room, we have a wall that shows all the district champions and state medalist. It is cool going back around the holidays to General McLane and seeing my name on that wall. It is special because I was the first person to go to the state finals for General McLane since the 1970s I believe.” 

After his days at General McLane, he was looking to stay close to home to compete at the Division I level. He had four schools he highly considered, but ultimately, the chance to wrestle on the same team with his older brother Tim again was something that played a major part in his decision to become a Mountaineer. 

Wrestling was a sport the two entered in elementary school, as their father, Mike, would become one of their youth wrestling coaches. It was something to tire the tandem out, so they did not run and cause chaos in the Wheeling household. What Mike and his wife Theresa could not have predicted at the time was the journey their sons would have in the sport. 

“At first when I was wrestling, I was a pretty poor sport. I always wanted to win. My dad has so many stories of me crying on the mat. I do not even remember if I liked the sport then. I do not think we reach that level without the support of my parents.” 

Not to be forgotten is Joe’s sister, Becca, who would also become a college athlete in the sport of running at Mercyhurst. When asking Wheeling how he thinks this could happen, he talked about the impact his parents had on the three of them. 

“My parents supported us no matter the sport we were in. We were into rodeo growing up, and my parents supported us in that and even when we moved on from that to focus on other sports. They always made sure we were putting our best effort in.” 

His high school wrestling coach, Ryan Cook, also played a major factor in his progression as a wrestler and also as a young adult. Cook was someone who helped Wheeling become a wrestler, who prided himself on great technique while maintaining a fast pace at the same time. 

Today, Wheeling’s role in the sport is supporting WVU home matches, alumni events, and occasionally helping at Felix Wrestling Academy, a business started by his former coach Danny Felix. Despite a tough end to his college career, he still makes it a point to remain active in the sport that has helped change his life for the better in many ways. 

It has been a full journey for the Edinboro native, and one that has allowed him to reach a collection of important milestones. 

Nate Steis, Sports Editor and Graduate Assistant | @EdinboroNow 

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