Story courtesy Jim Carlson, PennLive.com
Mechanicsburg, Pa. - If the Harvard University Class of 2013 holds a reunion in a few years and Walter Peppelman opts to attend, it's quite possible that wrestling won't be the main topic.
It's not that wrestling hasn't served the 2008 Central Dauphin graduate and former PIAA champion very well. He's won 107 career matches, becoming only the seventh Harvard wrestler to win 100.
He was named to the All-Ivy League team for the third straight season. And he can earn All-American status for the third time later this month -- and become only the third Harvard wrestler ever to do so -- if he successfully emerges from the EIWA championship tournament later this week.
But it's Harvard. And while students typically get out of college what they put into it, attending an Ivy League school has carried the perception of a having little extra prestige over the years.
Peppelman, though, doesn't necessary agree with that opinion.
"I don't think people look at it like that,'' he said. "It's a time when you're here to grow, discover yourself and discover what you're passionate about. You meet incredible people.
"I've been really blessed with this experience, to tell you the truth. I couldn't be happier. I couldn't be at a better place. I feel like I've developed on the mat, in the classroom and as a young man as well.''
The words that any parent of a college student would want to hear, indeed.
"I really owe a lot of it to the coaching staff and the teachers I have here at Harvard,'' Peppelman said. "For me, it's not over yet; I'm really focused on March and being an All-American and hopefully giving myself a chance to be a national champion on the big stage in the national finals (at Des Moines, Iowa).''
Peppelman thought back to his highly successful high school days and likened it to his current collegiate goal.
"It's one of those funny things … with Coach (Kenny) Courts (an assistant coach at CD to head wrestling coach Jeff Sweigard), the goal growing up was always to make the finals.
"You have to make the finals first to give yourself a chance to win it. So my goal has always been to make the national finals and it's something I've been working toward and I have a chance to do, so I'm excited for that.''
To be fair, Peppelman's excited about a lot of things. He's roomed with captains of three different Harvard athletic team and his friends have gone on to bigger and better things.
"I can't say enough about the relationships I've had here,'' he said. "I think the special thing that sets Harvard apart is the caliber of the people.
"I have one friend consulting in Frankfurt, Germany. Another's running a program in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, another who's working at Morgan Stanley in New York City, a friend who's in China doing medical research.
"I have a diverse group of friends who I've learned so much from and who just one year out have gone on to do incredible things, so it's really an eye-opening experience and one which I've really just relished and enjoyed.
To be challenged by the best in the classroom and kind of just take it all in and grow … it's been a fabulous experience for me and I've learned so much in many areas of experience in my life. I thank God for the opportunity to be here.''
When he gets out of there he'll take a major in government with him, but he'll add a special touch to it.
"For me I think one of the things I've discovered here is leadership and it is something I'm passionate about,'' Peppelman said. "I've been team captain the past three years so I've had a lot of experience.
"So I think for me, initially now, the plan is to graduate and hopefully come back for business school at some time in the future. As far as next year, I'm moving to New York City and I'll be working with finance at Deutsche Bank and learn a little bit about the world of finance.''
And Peppelman noted that government and finance are very much intertwined.
"It's really all inter-related,'' he said. "Government plays a huge role in our economic environment. And one of the things with government is that it's very interdisciplinary. It includes history, literature, culture, a cross-section of a lot of interesting things. It's been something that's captured my interest as well as the kind of people in the business environment.
"There are a lot of wrestlers on Wall Street,'' Peppelman said. "It's a good, competitive place where you can continue to feed off of that competitive spirit and the desire to perform, which is something I'll want to continue after my competing career when wrestling's over.
"So that was kind of a draw for me, the culture and environment and I thought the work was interesting and I thought the field was interesting. I'm actually in one government class right now worrying about the Euro-crisis and the importance of that.
"Listening to these people who are in their 30s -- and they've worked for five or 10 years and most of them are European -- talk about the crisis is fascinating and enlightening. It just really shows you how inter-related everything is in today's world and how much of a global environment it is and what role government plays. So I think there's a lot more similarities than you would think.''
What Harvard is all about, Peppelman said, is the thinking. Wrestling certainly has played a major role in his five years at Cambridge, Mass., and he is absolutely focused on upcoming EIWA and NCAA tournaments the new few weeks. But his favorite sport merely complemented the overall experience.
"It's not necessarily what you study here, but they teach you how to think,'' Peppelman said. "They teach you how to think analytically and approach a problem and express your thoughts in a persuasive and clear manner. That's really what they focus on.
"Come here, find yourself, do whatever you want and then leave and take the tools they've given you and try to make a difference.''
According to Harvard coach Jay Weiss, Peppelman already has.
"I cannot say enough about the strength of Walter's personality,'' said Weiss, who has coached Peppelman for five years and known him for seven. "His passion has had an enormous impact on this wrestling program, one that has left a lasting impression on all those fortunate to work with him.
"Above all, it is this passion that makes Walter such a remarkable and successful person. His integrity, helpfulness and sense of humor combine to make Walter an excellent wrestler, leader and my lifelong friend.
"It is these traits,'' Weiss said, "that will make Walter very successful in no matter what he partakes after graduation.''