|RP’s Klee bound for West Point
Paul James “PJ” Klee is fresh off of flight from Minnesota this week, having just completed in and won a preseason national wrestling tournament. His wrestling skills have helped him gain entry to one of the country’s most prestigious and competitive military academies.
West Point Military Academy in New York, whose history dates back to the Revolutionary War, has had many notable graduates, including George Custer, John Hayes and Ulysses S. Grant – a list Rohnert Park native PJ Klee will soon join. Now a senior at Cardinal Newman High in Santa Rosa, the 18-year-old had established a relationship with the wrestling coach at West Point early on, and was the second prospective student accepted for the class of 2018.
“It’s been in my mind for the past two or three years,” says Klee of attending West Point. “Before that it never really interested me, but once I realized what they had to offer me, I considered it.”
His acceptance however, may have begun at the age of five, when Klee’s father first introduced him to the sport of wrestling. For the first two years of high school, he attended Blair Academy in New Jersey, the country’s number one wrestling high school before returning to Sonoma County.
He is now considered a two-time high school national wrestling champion and an All-American wrestler, a title he will continue to build upon after joining the West Point wrestling team.
“I just loved it so much I couldn’t quit,” he says. The type he competes in is called “funk/scramble wrestling.” “I like how I can express myself pretty well through wrestling; my technique is a little different.”
Getting into West Point is no easy feat. Apart from a physical agility test, Klee had to work around the fact he has asthma, a major obstacle for him, and complete a writing portion as well as acquire letters of recommendation.
Also required is a letter from a congressman, something Klee was able to bypass because of the relationship he had formed with the coach already.
After falling in love with the campus during a summer camp, Klee knew it was somewhere he could easily fit in.
“I think it’s super honorable to get in,” he says. “The military will be a good structured career for me.”
At the West Point Academy, Klee will major in biomechanical engineering and hopes to become involved in a program called Stronger Soldier in which the Army essentially attempts to create a real-life version of an Iron Man suit for military personnel as well as perfecting prosthetic limbs for those who have lost them in combat.
In addition to pursuing his academic and athletic passions, attending an academy such as West Point is usually accompanied by a full-ride scholarship program, a five-year military service upon completion of undergraduate coursework and job security.
By the time of his graduation, Klee will have participated in what is called a WCAP (World Class Athlete Program) and gotten his Bachelor’s Degree with an option to transfer to grad school for free.
“It’s a lifestyle,” Klee says of the military. “You get to be around people who are like you and I think I’ll find that at this school.”
An alternative college experience for sure, but it is clear Klee, with his talent on the wrestling mat and academic aspirations, will no doubt thrive at West Point, making his mark amongst the leaders of history on their list of alumni.