By Logan VanDine
NOT many student-athletes are like sophomore David Szuba. Szuba is not only one of Rider’s best wrestlers, but finds himself juggling his life as a student, athlete, a married man and a father all at the same time.
For Szuba, wrestling was a “character-building experience” that his father introduced him to at the age of 4.
“It was something that we always did. Traveling in high school, we traveled all across the country for tournaments. That was something we did together, and I really started loving it, and it made me really good at it,” Szuba said.
‘David’s growing, he’s maturing’
Szuba, who was homeschooled up until middle school, fell in love with the sport during this time, but was never on the same level as other wrestlers until he reached high school. Once Szuba got to high school at Brick Memorial, he took off as a wrestler and strived to become the athlete he knew he could be.
“That’s when I really started getting good at the sport,” said Szuba, who was a state champion his senior year. “I started taking it more seriously and actually working on moves that were important in every position, and it kind of went from there.”
When it came time to further his athletics and academics, Szuba wanted to go to a place where he wouldn’t have to cut any weight. As a result, he was not heavily recruited until Rider showed interest.
“We needed a heavyweight, so we talked to him. And we know that he made the state finals at 190, and we knew he was big, and we liked his athleticism and the way he can score points. He was competitive in matches, and we had a really good Zoom call with him and his parents very early on in the process, and it kind of clicked for all of us, so we felt it was a good fit for us,” said Head Coach John Hangey.
Hangey, a former Division I All-American, who has mentored many successful wrestlers during his time at Rider, spoke glowingly of Szuba.
“David [Szuba] is extremely talented, extremely strong and extremely gifted when it comes to wrestling, but David has to learn discipline, patience. But David’s growing, he’s maturing and David is going to be very good, very soon,” Hangey said.
For Szuba, a college athlete with the responsibilities of a grown adult, Hangey is more than just a coach.
“He’s like a second father … he’s there to push you, he’s there to critique you, and he’s also there to give you a hard time if you’re not doing the right thing so he’s just all around the best family guy I know,” Szuba said.
‘I always knew’
On top of being a wrestler at Rider, Szuba is married to his high school girlfriend, Kayle Rose Szuba, who he shares a daughter with.
Kayle Rose and David Szuba first met in middle school but did not start a relationship together since there was an age difference between them. Sometimes love finds a way, and once they started dating, they knew they were going to be together forever. The two officially became a couple in David Szuba’s junior year, saying “we were single and pretty much perfect for each other.”
Kayle Rose Szuba recalled first getting to meet David Szuba and eventually falling in love.
“He was everyone’s friend because he was rather friendly, and he was a really good wrestler. He always was winning, so that was kind of my first impression,” Kayle Rose Szuba said. “He was a really respectful kid, he got a long with my family and we hung out a lot.”
David and Kayle Rose Szuba have been married for more than two years, doing so with the knowledge that getting married at a young age was a serious commitment, but David Szuba said he knew she was the one for him.
“I always knew, I travel a lot and been to many places with [Kayle] … we planned on traveling and do[ing] many different things …. Ever since going to Hawaii with her, I knew I was going to marry her,” Szuba said. “The plan was to propose to her during my junior year of college. I planned on taking her back to Hawaii to propose to her on the same mountain that I said I was going to because we were hiking on massive mountains and we found out she was pregnant and I just said, ‘Let’s get married now, this is a blessing.’ We got married probably three or four weeks after finding out she was pregnant.”
Kayle Rose Szuba also described her initial reaction to the proposal, calling it “a big decision.”
“Life is an adventure, so I just kind of went for it,” Kayle Rose Szuba said. “It was definitely a big decision. … I knew I was going to spend the rest of my life with him, so when I got pregnant, it was kind of something like, ‘Let’s do it now.’”
‘Kids are a blessing’
David Szuba has a 10-month-old daughter named Rose. He explained the challenges he faces being married and a father, along with balancing school and wrestling life.
“It’s stressful at times because you want to please everyone, and it’s hard to juggle school, wrestling and being home as much as possible because I commute. … Even though it’s only 45 minutes, I still want to go home as soon as possible because I don’t want to miss a beautiful moment: when the baby crawls, or she’s rolling around and she’s saying things now,” said Szuba. “I don’t want to miss those moments, but I know some stuff has to come first because my family is relying on me to do it, and I’m the father figure, I’m the rock of the family, and as the man in the relationship you have to put your emotions aside and do what’s best for your family.”
Despite everything David has to maintain, Kayle Rose Szuba could not commend him enough for the work he has done as a father.
“I don’t know what I imagined it would be like, but he definitely topped it, and he’s one of eight siblings, so I had a feeling he was going to be a great dad,” Kayle Rose Szuba said. “If he goes away for tournaments, when he gets home, she’s so happy to see him.”
David Szuba also pondered the possibility of expanding his budding family in the near future.
“We’re definitely holding off now for at least another year and a half, maybe two years, but the Bible says that kids are a blessing,” Szuba said. “So we’ll probably wait for another two years and see where we’re at. It’s in God’s hands.”