The Balavage brothers: Is wrestling in their DNA?

Sep 11, 2018
Thor and Ivan Balavage stand in front of the Pennsylvania state flag.

Newman University has its own special connection with Scranton, Pennsylvania. It’s not the students’ love for TV’s hit show “The Office,” but Thor and Ivan Balavage, brothers on the Newman wrestling team who call Scranton their hometown. The two have a strong bond and deep passion for wrestling, which begs the question: Is wrestling in their DNA?

Thor Balavage

Thor, a junior who chose Newman University because of its prestigious nursing program as well as the wrestling team, said, “Wrestling was definitely a priority when it came to choosing a college, and I knew that I wanted to study nursing. Newman had a lot to offer. The nursing program at Newman was above and beyond those at other universities I was considering, and it’s exactly what I was looking for.”

The wrestling team has been an astounding influence on Thor’s experience at Newman.

Thor said, “The wrestling team has been the only family I’ve had here for my first two years at Newman.” Thor said he would spend holidays with his teammates, and the separation from his family was made easier by his teammates and their families.

“I wasn’t able to go home, so their parents became like my parents. Without wrestling, and the support of the team and the entire Newman community, I would not be as successful as I am today.”

Thor’s greatest experiences at Newman University are with the student body and the larger Newman community. According to Thor, “Newman is like a bigger version of high school where everyone supports each other, and I like how nice the people in Kansas are.”

With his brother, Ivan, Thor now has a real family tie on the team.

Ivan Balavage

“I had a couple of different offers going for colleges with wrestling programs,” Ivan said, “but the possibility of spending a portion of my college years with my brother and having the opportunity to wrestle on the same team was influential in my decision.”

A freshman, Ivan has many expectations for his time at Newman, and said, “I’m definitely looking forward to spending time with my brother on the mat and just on Saturday evenings hanging out with the wrestling family. I’m also excited to see what I can do and who I can be here at Newman now that I’m more on my own.”

Ivan has not yet declared a major, but he expressed an interest in nursing.

As one might assume, wrestling means a great deal to both Thor and Ivan. “For us, it serves as an escape from the stress of school.” Ivan also said it serves as a great outlet for energy, especially because he and his brother share the same goal of winning.

Ivan and Thor first became acquainted with the mat in the first and third grade, respectively.

They spoke about their bond and their tendency to push each other toward success.

Thor said, “It’s hard to not win when my brother is winning.”

Ivan replied that the feeling is mutual. He said, “We saw our greatest successes when we were both on the same team and were wanting to be the top dog. We’ve had our greatest seasons when we were wrestling together.”

The future looks very bright for both Thor and Ivan, especially concerning their relationship as brothers. Ivan spoke about taking his relationship with Thor for granted until Thor began attending Newman, but said that being together on campus has strengthened their bond.