February 2, 2012

Beyond the Mat: Isaiah Cromwell

Tim Jackson, the Head Editor of the school newspaper, has agreed to join the wrestling program for a season-long series of articles highlighting the program and it's wrestlers through stories from both on and off the mat.  Tim has put together an extensive series of article topics. Below is the 11th story in the series.

Vice President Isaiah Cromwell. Not the title one would expect a typical college freshman to carry. But like many of F&M's freshman, saying Cromwell is typical fails to do him justice.

Scanning through F&M's stat sheets, Cromwell's name doesn't appear too often. In fact, Cromwell has yet to participate in a dual match this season. However, just because he hasn't had a huge impact on the mat so far, Cromwell has made his presence felt elsewhere, which, in many ways, trumps anything he could accomplish as a wrestler.

A product of Newark, NJ, Cromwell has faced his fair share of obstacles. Growing up, Cromwell was exposed to much of the crime and dysfunction Newark is known for.

"Newark is really a struggling city with a lot of violence," Cromwell said. "But right now we're in a state of change. We have a mayor who's great and who's one of my mentors. He motivates me. He's preparing Newark for the future."

The second part of that statement is what Cromwell holds on to when he thinks of his hometown. For all the struggles and the obstacles Cromwell has faced during his time in Newark, he has chosen to focus on the bright future Newark has with Mayor Cory A. Booker at the helm. Perhaps that is why Cromwell has been so heavily involved in the non-profit organization Embracing Arms, Inc.

Founded by his mother, Cromwell has dove head first into the organization and is the acting Vice President for Embracing Arms. According to Cromwell, Embracing Arms engages in a wide variety of community service projects aimed at strengthening the ties between those within the neighborhoods of Newark.

"[The goal of] Embracing Arms is to bridge the gap between the elderly and the youth in the community of Newark, New Jersey," Cromwell said. "Right now, there's just chaos, it's not really a community. We're trying to bring the unity back to community slowly."

"My mother is the brains behind the organization," Cromwell continued. "The reason [we started Embracing Arms]? We just wanted to start our own organization to get involved in the community. We started in about seven years ago. We feed the homeless on holidays; we take children on educational trips. We try to get kids out of the city. It's good for them to see the world and see the country."

While Cromwell has given a lot back to the community through his organization, he has learned just as much from those he has helped. These lessons have kept Cromwell grounded and given him an appreciation for what he has.

"Especially from feeding the homeless," Cromwell said when asked about what his experience with Embracing Arms has taught him. "Now I never take life for granted because you never know what can happen. I just try to be kind to them because you might need them someday. You might that homeless person someday, so never take anything for granted."

"Just show everyone respect."

At F&M, Cromwell hopes to continue to make a difference with his life. Although its cliché, Cromwell's desire is to become president and to make an impact in the world around him. He genuinely hopes to one day be an agent for change both in his hometown and the country at large.

Cromwell aims to be a government major and hopes to turn that degree and his experiences outside the classroom into a law career and eventually into a career in the public sector.

"I plan on becoming a lawyer and working on education reform law," Cromwell said. "After that I want to run for office and become mayor of Newark, New Jersey. [I want to] run for president, change the world."

Impacting those around him in a positive manner is Cromwell's highest priority. It's also one of the most interesting parts of his personality. Just doing the bare minimum doesn't satisfy Cromwell. Going above and beyond what is normally expected is what he demands of himself.

As a wrestler, even though he has seen little time on the mat, Cromwell has maintained lofty goals for himself. Much like his pursuits and activities outside wrestling, Cromwell expects more from himself than just about anyone else. One of the few exceptions may be his mother, who never allowed Cromwell to stray when he was a kid growing up in Newark.

"My mother, she kept me focused," Cromwell said. "She got me into a great high school and that's where I started wrestling. I never had time to play in the streets. The sun came up and I was in school and then the sun came down and I was at home. I didn't have time to be involved in all that other nonsense."

Cromwell got involved in wrestling more or less by chance. The sport was not one he thought about much during his childhood. In fact, basketball was Cromwell's first love, and he hoped one day to take his talents to the NBA. Unfortunately, that dream was not meant to be, as Cromwell was cut from his high school squad and was told he did not have the body to be a basketball player.

It was at that point he turned to wrestling.

"I was kind of forced to wrestle when I couldn't make my high school basketball team," Cromwell said. "They sat me down and said, 'Hey, you've got the body of wrestler.' I said, 'I don't want to wrestle!' I thought wrestling was what I saw in WWE with the slamming chairs and I didn't want to be a part of that. I wanted to go to the NBA."

"They kind of had to force me into it," Cromwell added. "Fortunately, I stuck with it because I started to like it."

Like so many others on F&M's wrestling team, Cromwell has drawn a great deal from his time as a wrestler. The sport has taught him a lot about life and how to persevere through struggles. Cromwell is used to facing seemingly insurmountable tasks on the mat and he has tried to translate that into his experience off it.

"I believe wrestling is a little different than other sports because I believe it does teach you life skills," Cromwell said. "It has taught me to persevere. When you're on the bottom, you have to get up. You have to do it step-by-step and just get off the bottom. Sometimes, you just want to give up, but you have to understand that you can't. [Giving up] shows mental weakness. So you have to try and overcome that mental weakness. After that, everything else is easy."

So far in his young collegiate career, Cromwell has not let his lack of time on the mat dampen his spirits or his goals. They remain the same as when he first took to the mat.

"My goal as a wrestler is to be a champion," Cromwell said. "I just want to win. But the sport of wrestling is about more than just winning. If I become a champion, it shows everybody out there and myself that I'm a hard worker and that I have overcome all my struggles. It's those who work the hardest who are the champions. I just want to work hard and become a champion."

Cromwell for the most part is a fairly quiet kid. He's not the loudest one on the bench and he's not one to announce his presence. But that does not diminish what he has accomplished, nor does it put a limit on what he hopes to achieve.

From working hard on the mat to working to serve others in his community off it, Cromwell aims to make a positive impact in the lives of everyone he comes across. Even if he never does become a national champion on the mat, he's already well on his way to becoming a champion off it.

 
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