On the one hand, New Oxford High senior Jordan Conaway liked the friendly atmosphere around the Lynchburg, Va., campus of Liberty University.

On the other, Conaway said that attitude will have to take a different turn when he takes the wrestling mat for the NCAA Division I Flames.

"I definitely have to get more physical in wrestling because, in college, I can't be as nice," he said after signing Monday to attend Liberty on a partial scholarship. "Sometimes, I have really good technique, but I'm not always physical about doing it."

"It's supposed to be a physical sport and I'm not always that way."

However, Conaway is successful. With more than 100 career wins, he has posted sixth- and third-place finishes at 103 pounds in the PIAA Class AAA Championships in the past two years.

"As far as ability goes and the things he does on the mat, he's worlds better than I am," his father and New Oxford High head coach, Dave Conaway, who wrestled at Clarion University, said of Jordan. "His confidence, number one. Number two, his athletic ability and, how would you say it, he has a feel for things when he's out there.

"It's almost like he makes things up. He just knows where to go. Just amazing athletic ability."

However, when it came time to decide upon a college, Jordan Conaway had his mind largely made up after he took advice from his father.

"He's always supported me through everything," Jordan said. "And he definitely understands the whole process, so it makes it easier on me."

In fact, Dave Conaway said his counsel was no different than that he gave to other collegiate prospects.

"I've always told them you have to go where it's a good fit," he said. "You have to go where you feel comfortable because if you go somewhere where you get money and you're not comfortable, the money's not going to make you stay. If you can get a good fit and the money's there, it's a bonus."

That was the case with Liberty, though the university founded by the late Rev.

Jordan Conaway, a senior at New Oxford High School, looks on Monday morning prior to signing a Division I scholarship to compete in wrestling at Liberty
Jordan Conaway, a senior at New Oxford High School, looks on Monday morning prior to signing a Division I scholarship to compete in wrestling at Liberty University in Virginia. (Evening Sun Photo by Brett Berwager)
Jerry Falwell offers a different atmosphere than many campuses.

"Since I'm a Christian, I follow those values," he said, "It helped me make the decision so I can grow stronger as a Christian going there. I can still do it at another college, but it would probably be easier or a little more efficient."

Expressing interest in a criminal justice major, Conaway will join a program which has enjoyed a four-year run as NCAA East Regional champion under head coach Jesse Castro, a Liberty graduate. He has sent 16 wrestlers to the NCAA Division I Championships.

However, Conaway said he expects to red-shirt his freshman season, if only to add size. Expecting to compete at 112 and 119 pounds this season for New Oxford, he will have to grow to get closer to the lightest collegiate weight class, 125.

"I'll have to beat out whoever's there. I'm not sure who's there, but I have to compete to start," he said about the moment he joins Liberty's team. "Unless the kids get bigger and I'm the only one (at 125)."

Meanwhile, Conaway said he has spent the current offseason lifting weights and training for his final high school season, a routine which will continue when he joins the Liberty squad.

When that happens, it will mean a hectic routine for his father. New Oxford and Liberty both compete during the winter, but Dave Conaway said he's ready.

"I'm going to try to work things out and see him as much as I can," the coach said of his son.

ccurley@eveningsun.com