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Flames Feature - A Ready Warrior

February 21, 2007
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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Liberty's Patrick Walker

Liberty's Patrick Walker

Wrestling has played an integral part in the history of mankind. The sport is as old as time itself. It was one of the original Olympic events and it's the first sport mentioned in the Bible. 

Jacob's night-long wrestling encounter with a "man" in Genesis 32 helped shape history. The outcome of the match resulted in Jacob receiving a new name, Israel, which would later become the name of God's blessed nation. 

Even military units throughout time have used wrestling as a form of training, preparing their warriors for combat on the battlefield. However, for Liberty University freshman wrestler Patrick Walker, the reverse is true as the military helped prepare Walker for his collegiate wrestling experience. 

After graduating from Newark High School in his hometown of Newark, Del., Walker was unsure about college, so he chose to enlist in the armed forces as an Army Ranger. 

"I remember during my senior year, I really had no idea where I was going to go to college," stated Walker. "I hadn't applied anywhere and I didn't know what I was going to do with my life. I had a lot of questions and something just pointed me towards the military." 

However, Walker's transition to military life wasn't a gradual one. He was quickly thrown into basic training. He made the decision to join the armed forces during the summer, but his enlist date was Sept. 19, 2001, just eight short days after the tragic events which are now simply known to all Americans as "9/11". 

After nearly nine months of grueling training at an army base in Fort Benning, Ga., Walker completed his instruction, graduating to his Ranger unit in May 2002.
But once again, Walker had no time to get acclimated to his new surroundings as he was swept into active duty. Two weeks after joining the group, his unit was deployed to Afghanistan. 

"I had to learn everything you need to know in a unit quickly," reflected Walker on his rapid transition to the front lines. "I had to learn how to function with other guys, as well as how to operate different weapon systems and learn tactical skills while I was overseas in a combat zone." 

As Army Rangers, Walker and his unit specialized in small-scale operations, like airfield seizures. They would parachute into enemy territory, gain control of the land and clear the fields of any obstruction, so the military could start landing planes to deploy ground forces. 

"When we started the war with Iraq, the Rangers were one of the first groups to go in and gain control of the land," explained Walker of his duties. 

All-in-all, Walker, who finished as an E-5 Sergeant after four years of active service, and his unit were deployed four times – twice to Afghanistan and twice to Iraq – with each deployment lasting roughly 100 days. 

But it was during this time, Walker grew – physically, emotionally and, more importantly, spiritually – helping shape the man and the athlete he is today. 

"I found that being athletic was certainly beneficial during my military training," commented Walker. "In fact, the military taught me combat skills, allowing me to excel better than most around me because of my wrestling background." 

When asked to reflect on his decision to enlist in the military rather than enroll in college straight out of high school, Walker knows God truly pointed him in the right direction.

"I think it was a very wise decision to take four years off before school," said Walker. "I see a lot of 18 and 19-year-old freshmen who don't know what they want to do. They end up changing their major three or four times. 

"I think that building my character and discipline during those subsequent years allowed me to get to the point where I would be successful in major college experiences. The military was beneficial for my growth as a person. The impact the military structure had on me as an individual truly prepared me for school." 

However, make no mistake, Walker's current success as one of the Flames' top wrestlers is not simply a product of his military training. Walker comes from Delaware as a highly decorated prep athlete, including a combined 69-3 record as a junior and senior – years which saw him earn state runner-up and championship honors, respectively. 

The one thing his military training accomplished for Walker was to add size, strength and agility to someone who wrestled at 189 pounds his final prep season. Walker never lifted a weight in high school and it wasn't until his days as a Ranger that he was educated in area of weight training. 

"I met a gentleman in the military by the name of James Havins, who was about 10 years old than me, and he taught me how to lift weights," remembered Walker of this influential fellow combatant. "I gained about 25-30 pounds during my first year at the gym, but more importantly, my character grew as I learned from him how to be a leader." 

And now Walker is putting the athletic and leadership skills learned during his military days to use as he is part of a very young wrestling roster. The Flames' wrestling program was recently reinstated and is in its inaugural season after a 12-year hiatus. And leadership is one thing head coach Jesse Castro needs as all but two of his 28-man roster are underclassmen. 

"I enjoy being a bit older and having come from an organized structure. I know how to perform things in a successful way so I can act as a go-between with the coaches and the rest of the team," stated the 23-year-old student-athlete. "I view myself as an athlete and a college student just like them. I feel like I can bond at their level, but I can also step up and represent the team when needed." 

Although Walker is just a freshman, he knows his time at Liberty won't be long and four-short years from now he will face another crossroad – life after college. With his decision to follow God's leading after high school working out so well, Walker has vowed he will follow suit after his days at Liberty. 

"Rather than think about where I want to go, I want to go wherever God wants to send me," remarked the pastoral leadership major. "He can call me to a prison, to the military or to a church. My goal is to develop a Christ-like character so that He can call me anywhere and I will be ready for it, no matter the type of ministry." 

And if his track record follows years past, his training in college will certainly prepare him to follow the Lord's leading. Patrick Walker has always been a warrior properly readied for battle in whatever circumstances life might bring.
Todd Wetmore is the assistant athletics director for media relations who works with Liberty's wrestling team.