Wrestling alum Wolford pursuing PhD at West Virginia University

Category:  Sports
Wednesday, October 27th, 2021 at 1:07 PM
Wrestling alum Wolford pursuing PhD at West Virginia University by Nate Steis
Photo courtesy of Edinboro Athletics, taken by Matt Durisko

MORGANTOWN, W. Va. - It is rare that people walk-on to a Division I wrestling program, but few people are like Edinboro graduate Cullen Wolford.

Wolford, a Sheffield Lake, Ohio native, showcased the correct definition of what a student-athlete should be. Not only did he handle the dedication it takes to be a Division I athlete, but he did so while studying biochemistry and physics.

“I originally came to Edinboro as a Pre-Pharmacy major, but after my first semester, I decided I did not want to go to LECOM (Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine) after just two years at Edinboro to get my PharmD. It ended up working out for the better because I then fell in love with the research path that I am on now.”

After graduating from Edinboro in May 2021, Wolford started a journey at West Virginia University just a few months later, where he is on his way to becoming a Doctor of Philosophy in Biomedical Sciences. In addition to his studies, he earned an opportunity to become a Graduate Student Researcher for the West Virginia University School of Medicine.

At Edinboro, he became interested in research during COVID-19, influenced by family and friends who battled cancer. He studied primarily physics and biochemistry in his undergraduate career, but now at West Virginia, his research emphasis has shifted to cancer biology.

“Infectious disease and cancer are prominent in research right now,” said the former Fighting Scots wrestler. “I know families who have been cursed to have cancer run in their family, and I think most of us know someone who has had cancer. I also have known a few people with serious brain tumors and have seen the devastation that causes. There is not much treatment right now, but I want to help change that.”

While at Edinboro, Wolford learned from and worked alongside longtime Edinboro chemistry professor, Dr. Lisa Unico.

“She was just a great resource overall,” Wolford explained. “She always had amazing school, life and study advice to share with me. She and my classmates were such a big help to me.”

Wolford gave a great deal of praise to his former head coaches at Edinboro, including current Edinboro Head Wrestling Coach, Matt Hill, and current West Virginia University Head Wrestling Coach, Tim Flynn. Each of these men had a profound impact on him, and were supportive of him both on and off the mat.

Hill had this to say about the type of person Wolford is: “Cullen is a great young man who loves Edinboro University. He worked extremely hard every day in the wrestling room and in the classroom. He’s a great ambassador for our program, and I can’t wait to see what his future looks like as he pursues his doctorate degree at WVU. Cullen was a pleasure to coach, and I knew I could always rely on him as a team leader.”

Wolford also mentioned that his high school coach, Seth Houston, helped shape him into the person he is today: “He shaped me into a gritty, hardworking wrestler and individual. My first year of wrestling was only in the eighth grade as a promise to my friends that if I did not make the basketball team that I would join wrestling.”

The sport helped Wolford transform his body and fitness level, something that has changed his life for the better. At Brookside, his statistics and accolades include 110 wins, a district qualification, an individual conference title as a senior, and a selection as a Lorain County All-Star as a senior. He also helped the Brookside Cardinals to three dual championships and conference title. Wolford also found success in football as a two-year starter, which helped him to earn all-conference honors in both wrestling and football as a senior. Despite the success he had as a high school athlete, his decision to go to Edinboro was based on academics. He did not apply to Edinboro expecting to become an Edinboro student-athlete, but his character and work ethic would help him become one anyway.

On a visit to campus, he met with then Head Wrestling Coach, Tim Flynn, who would give Wolford the opportunity to walk-on to the program.

“My senior year of high school was filled with injuries and devastation, and I really thought wrestling was over for me after that,” he said. “I was ranked in the state my senior year, but figured it was time to solely focus on school. Coach Flynn gave me a chance to redeem myself and welcomed me with open arms.”

Wolford provided some brilliant advice for student-athletes who want to pursue high-level sports and a rigorous education.

“I tell them to not be afraid when things seem tough or overwhelming. I believe things will work out in the end. It is possible to balance being a Division I athlete or wrestler if you remain humble, prepare, and also remain confident in yourself. It is also important to continue to find new reasons as to why you love your sport.”

What started as just a two-year plan at Edinboro as a pre-pharmacy student turned into five great years that helped Wolford find his passion for research, an opportunity to continue wrestling past high school, and build close relationships that will last a lifetime. For Wolford, Edinboro will always have a piece of his heart, and will serve as a place a long and successful research career began.

Nate Steis, Graduate Assistant and Sports Editor | @EdinboroNow

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