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Inextinguishable Zeal

Caleb White is a St. Cloud State student, a college wrestler, a volunteer firefighter – and a planner

This fall, on a night when the temperatures dipped low enough to remind Minnesotans that winter was on its way, members of the St. Cloud State University wrestling team gathered around a bonfire on a team retreat. Another harbinger of winter – the approach of wrestling season – was on their minds.

Caleb White, a senior heavyweight majoring in construction management, spoke up. “I have three families,” the 285-pound wrestler told his teammates. “One is my immediate family – my brothers, my mom and dad. One is my wrestling family – all the wrestlers I knew in high school, in college, all the wrestlers I’ve met in my career.

“And then there’s my firefighting family,” White went on. “They’re my brothers, too.”

White brings a tactile focus to nearly every challenge he approaches. When he was a 350-pound high school football player, he began running at 5 a.m. daily and following a strict diet to drop 88 pounds so he could weigh in at less than the top weight allowed in high school wrestling. He went on to win the 2011 Iowa state heavyweight wrestling championship.

And when he arrived at college with plans to pursue a career in firefighting after graduation, he left message after message with an area volunteer fire department, hoping that a spot on a crew would help him prepare for his future career.

White’s calls were never returned, so he signed up for firefighting training at the local technical school and planned to find his own way into the profession.

“We’re introducing ourselves, and the instructor gets to me, and I say, ‘I’m Caleb White, and I’m from Iowa,’” White recalled. “The instructor was the chief of the department I had been calling, and he said, ‘I’m glad I found you. We couldn’t hear any of your voice mails.’”

Soon, the college wrestler had a spot on the crew and was carrying a firefighter’s pager in his pocket. White has worked with the St. Cloud State coach, Steve Costanzo, to set priorities and ensure he is meeting all his obligations.

“I just said, ‘This is something that’s really important to me that will continue after college wrestling,” White said. “He was really supportive of it. He said, ‘You gotta do what you gotta do.’”

The priorities, White said, look like this: first, class; second, wrestling; third, firefighting.

“He’s pretty good at juggling all the different things he is doing,” Costanzo said. “We’re just happy that he’s able to get himself in so many activities and be successful with them.”

White isn’t just thinking about the job he will have after his college wrestling career is complete. He has a penchant for planning ahead, way ahead, and his college major reflects that: He is studying construction management, and after a couple of decades as a firefighter, he plans to become a fire inspector.



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Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.

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