By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe
2023 VHS graduate JP Culver’s studies and wrestling career will continue at University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh this fall. He’ll carry with him his belief in the importance of hard work and good citizenship.
JP is an active person. It’s just how he’s made. His parents kept him busy and encouraged his involvement in athletics while in elementary school in Charlevoix. His rocket football coach was also a club wrestling coach and father of one of JP’s friends. This coach approached JP and his parents, encouraging JP to consider wrestling. “He looks like a wrestler. Moves like a wrestler.” JP did wrestle during elementary but “didn’t really like it.”
This changed when the Culver family moved to Vicksburg when JP was in 7th grade. Again, he was involved in multiple sports, including basketball and wrestling during the winter. His good friends on the basketball team also wrestled. They convinced JP to join wrestling where JP bonded with Coach Doug Fuller. “I think I enjoyed it and stayed because of Coach Fuller,” says JP. “I really connected with him.”
During JP’s high school years, he faced and overcame some disappointments and challenges. One challenge was the pause in athletics due to COVID during his sophomore year. “Yeah, that was tough,” says JP. “I did stay in contact with my coaches and did work out regularly, so that helped.”
Then during his junior football season, he suffered a spiral fracture of his leg. That meant rest, healing, and no pre-season conditioning for wrestling. “My junior wrestling season had a slow start, and I was really out of shape,” JP says.
JP’s parents, Pastor Greg and Joanne Culver, were always adamant about the importance of academics. They guided him during his elementary and middle school years, but provided him more independence during high school. Those early lessons paid off, attracting college wrestling scouts who were impressed with his conduct on the mat and his consistent performance in the classroom.
JP said that behavior on the mat was something he had to learn with the help and guidance of his parents, and it “developed over time.” The three periods of a wrestling match are grueling and exhausting emotionally and physically. “I had to learn to manage the disappointment, to pull it together after I lost. I learned to take a few minutes to gather myself.”
JP experienced recognition and success during his senior year: he topped 100 wins, was conference champion, and qualified for the state tournament. But his loss at that tournament at Ford Field which kept him from the finals was heart-breaking.
Yes, his record attracted attention from recruiters and scouts from around the nation, but JP’s conduct at that meet impressed “character scouts” who his mom indicates, “attend matches to not only seek talent but also watch how an athlete interacts with teammates and handles adversity.”
Spring was a busy time for JP. He was part of the track and field team and part of the 4 x 4 relay team which broke the school record. And he enjoyed the camaraderie of his classmates during his final days in the classroom.
At the end of June, JP wrestled with Team Michigan Blue, representing Vicksburg and the state of Michigan at the Disney Dules National Wrestling Competition, which JP describes as “the most amazing experience he’s ever had.”
And those amazing experiences will continue. Like many young people leaving home, JP heads for Oshkosh this fall brimming with hopes and dreams and the unwavering support of his family. And as one of his former teachers, it is this reporter’s belief that he will continue to represent his family, school and community well. He will demonstrate what he is known for: good citizenship and hard work.