Members of the Iowa Hawkeye wrestling team descended on Washington, D.C, Monday for a trip that included a visit to the White House lawn.
To show appreciation for team members who sacrificed the time to succeed in their respective sport as well as academics, President Obama invited 38 college sports teams to the South Lawn on Monday to commemorate their successful seasons, all of which concluded with NCAA championships.
The president addressed the audience of more than 800 student-athletes and coaches in front of the White House and praised those in attendance for their accomplishments.
“You woke up early; you put in countless hours of practice for the love of the game and for the pride of your school,” the president said. “You rode those buses, and you carried those bags because you knew what it was going to take to be the best — and because every one of you has a competitive streak that’s about a mile wide.”
In the 2009-10 season, the Hawkeyes posted an undefeated dual record of 23-0 and extended their winning streak to 61 matches. The 2010 NCAA championship marked the second consecutive 23rd in school history.
“I see it as a tribute to the hard work that I put into the sport and my teammates put into the sport,” said former Iowa wrestler Ryan Morningstar, who competed in the 2009-10 season and finished with a 30-8 overall record. “It’s a tribute to everything that we’ve put into this sport. The hard work, the sacrifice and the blood, sweat, and tears.”
Morningstar, 24, said before the team’s departure that although he is honored by the opportunity to meet Obama, he is eager to return to training for the 2012 U.S. Olympic wrestling team.
“We are always working … we don’t let a day go by that we don’t try to improve,” the Lisbon, Iowa, native said. “Whether it’s hard wrestling goals, whether it’s just one day — maybe I just throw a tape in and watch old matches.”
Morningstar described wrestling as more of a lifestyle than a sport for him and his team and said that mentality is one of the key ingredients to the unheralded success and rich tradition of the Hawkeye wrestling program.
Hawkeye sophomore Matt McDonough said the experience at the White House will stick with him for the rest of his life.
“You try to stay grounded about [meeting the president],” said McDonough, who was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2010. “You realize that he is just a guy … But once you see him, it’s really a spectacle.”
After he congratulated the student-athletes who stood before him, Obama said the hard work and dedication shown in their championship runs will remain with the athletes for the rest of their lives.
“You’re always going to know what it means to compete and what it means to be a champion,” Obama said. “That’s something that nobody will ever be able to take away from you. And that is something that you should be extraordinarily proud of.”