Before state championship wrestling glory brought serious college attention to Riley Kuhn, the Fort Payne senior looked at Queens University of Charlotte in Charlotte, N.C., as a possible collegiate destination.
Kuhn later went to work filling out an online sports application on the university’s website. Seconds later, he received a follow on Instagram and a direct message from the school.
“For them to reach out to me and offer me a wrestling spot was my dream,” Kuhn said after a signing ceremony with family and coaches at Fort Payne High School on Friday morning. “The whole process was very easy, the coach was very nice and I’m so glad that I could sign somewhere where I’m happy with the location, the academics and everything.”
Kuhn said he plans to pursue a business degree and has dreams of traveling internationally.
Kuhn capped his high school wrestling career in style, defeating Wetumpka’s Abe Preston by a 7-3 decision to win the AHSAA’s Class 5A-6A 220-pound state title at Von Braun Center in Huntsville in February. The feat highlighted Fort Payne’s fifth-place overall finish in the 5A-6A division of the 2021 state wrestling tournament.
“I think two weeks to a month after the state tournament (Kuhn) started to get some offers by some different schools,” Wildcats head coach Austin Panell said, “then Queens reached out and he decided that’s where he wanted to go. I know he has some family up there in North Carolina, so that helped push him up that way.”
Kuhn finished the wrestling season with a 24-1 individual record and tallied more than 130 career wins as a varsity athlete. He was a five-year varsity starter, a four-year state qualifier and a three-year state placer.
Kuhn said his signing felt like a culmination of everything he’s worked to achieve over the past few years.
“I’m able to make a whole new set of friends and family up there in Charlotte,” he said. “I’m happy that my hard work has paid off. It’s proven to me that if you are consistent in your sport, you will eventually get what you want.”
In addition to his wrestling prowess, Kuhn excelled as a starting offensive lineman for Fort Payne’s varsity football team. Although he admitted to being a little undersized for an offensive tackle, Kuhn said playing football has helped him develop his wrestling skills, and vice versa.
“If you want to be good at football, I recommend you wrestle,” he said. “If you want to be good at wrestling, I recommend playing football. They go hand in hand very well.”
As a sophomore, Kuhn placed fourth overall in his weight class at the state meet. As a junior, he finished as a state runner-up. And before he closed his final athletic season as a Wildcat, he brought home championship gold.
“Queens is very lucky to get Riley Kuhn.” Panell said. “He’s as great of a competitor as I’ve ever coached. He loves to win, loves to compete, loves to be physical. He’s an extremely smart wrestler; he studies the sport so well and is always looking to be better.”