Hometown: Cranford, N.J.
Penn State Career
Robbie was thrust into action his true freshman season during the Covid-shortened 2020-2021 year. Even though Howard was coming back from a shoulder injury from his high school days, he was still able to participate in 13 matches for the Nittany Lions and he was a 2021 NCAA qualifier.
Unfortunately for Howard, his injury continued to linger, and he missed all of the 2021-2022 and he is taking a medical redshirt this season.
Prior to Penn State
Howard spent his high school days at Bergen Catholic High School in New Jersey. There he racked up an overall record of 133-10 which included appearances in the state finals all four years.
Robbie took home the individual state title twice, lead his team to three state team titles, and was the team captain.
And during this time, Howard also set his sights towards national and international competition. Robbie went on to be the first wrestler to win the Cadet National Championships three times, he competed with the Cadet World Team all three of these years, and he was a member of the 2018 Youth Olympic Team which went on to win a gold medal.
"“The culture of Bergen Catholic is built around a strong brotherhood among students. The brotherhood and network of support extends across all demographics—academics, athletics and friendships. Robert was a natural fit and valued member of the community. More than his ability as an athlete was his concern for the welfare of his teammates, classmates and teachers. During Robbie’s senior year, a classmate, lost a battle to cancer. Witnessing Robbie and his classmates rally and support each other and honor the memory of their friend was moving and poignant. In 2019 Robbie represented the United States in the junior olympics held in Peru. Bergen Catholic is a Christian Brothers School with a sister school in Peru. We have a very good relationship with the sister school and participate in an exchange program. When it was announced that Robbie would be participating at the event in Peru, our school president Br. Brian Walsh asked if Robbie would be interested in visiting the school as an ambassador of Bergen Catholic. Robbie did not hesitate to take advantage of the opportunity. The kindness and generosity of the students in Peru had a profound effect on him. The love and kindness struck a cord with Robert–he was grateful and appreciative. He would win a gold medal representing the USA. I would say that the experience and outpouring of support from the students in Peru meant as much, if not more than his accomplishments on the mat. As I am responding to this question, I realize that I could go on for pages providing examples of Robert’s heart and character.” -Coach David Bell"
“I’m deathly afraid of being average. I literally couldn’t imagine not being the best I can be at what I do.”
On making the final decision on where to wrestle in college, Howard admitted the hair stood on end the first time he walked into Rec Hall. And even though his final choices were down to Iowa, Michigan, and Penn State, he knew right away Happy Valley was going to be his home for wrestling. Additionally, the Nittany Lions were a best fit for Robbie because of the coaches, campus, and proximity to his home.
And prior to making this choice, Howard noticed a difference in his wrestling after his first workout at the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club while still in high school. Coach Cody Sanderson gave Robbie some drills to work more on basics and Howard felt them pay off for him at nationals.
During workouts with the NLWC, Robbie got the opportunity to go toe-to-toe with Roman Bravo-Young. Howard loved getting to wrestle RBY, and he was astounded that RBY beat him soundly without much effort. This experience set Robbie’s focus on getting to the next level and he immediately understood how much harder college wrestling would be.
Coach Bell on Howard’s college choice, “Robbie is a quick study and a serious student of the sport. He selected Penn State, not just because of the success of the program, but the belief that coaches Sanderson, Cunningham and staff were the best in the business. His wrestling has evolved, and he thrives being in a wrestling saturated environment.”
Robbie is candid about dealing with the adversity of injuries and he admits the worst part about being injured is that it leaves you too much time to think and doubts can creep in. When he was able to return to the mat following the injury in high school, Robbie reached out to Roman Bravo-Young, and the all-time Nittany Lion great sent him some inspirational quotes and tips that helped him focus.
Going into Howard’s state championship match, the quote from RBY actually entered his head and helped him finish the bout.
However, wrestling was not always the path Robbie saw himself going down. After winning everything locally and not being challenged, Howard almost quit wrestling in the 7th grade. But after trying a new club and getting bested by more highly trained wrestlers, Robbie suddenly envisioned goals again and he never looked back from there.
Off the mat, Robbie loves to game when he has time. But it’s not always rainbows and puppies for Howard as he gets frustrated because he’s too busy to develop skills to beat gamers who have nothing else to do except play. I’m just going to chalk this up to his super competitive side.
At the dinner table, Howard’s favorite food is his mother’s spaghetti and meatballs, and he has a firm stance on the “Taylor Ham” versus “Pork Roll” debate. “It’s Taylor Ham.”
I honestly had no idea there was even a debate about this but I’m not about to doubt someone who could twist me into a pretzel with just their left arm. So yeah, I’m all on board the Taylor Ham train.
As I previously mentioned, Robbie has been dealing with a shoulder injury which originated in high school. He was supposed to have shoulder surgery immediately following his senior season in high school, but the Covid lockdowns happened that week and he had to put it off. Due to these events, Howard was very limited in his workouts and wasn’t allowed to lift at all.
Speaking of the lockdowns, can we as a fan of collegiate wrestling take a step back and try to imagine what life would have been like for a kid in high school during these times? I realize this affected everyone, but as kids, their entire worlds were literally turned upside down. The lasting effects of not being able to have a prom or graduation or to put off injury treatment will be hard to measure, but I’m confident it was very impactful.
“I am very proud that I played a role in Robbie’s career. His contribution to Bergen Catholic Wrestling goes far beyond his accolades; I can never repay him the support, concern and friendship that he has afforded me. His best days are ahead and I look forward to seeing him chase down the success that he deserves.” -Coach Bell
As a wrestler it’s paramount you can handle adversity and pressure. Because in the end, it’s just you and another wrestler across from you on the mat. But Howard loves pressure, and he loves being able to show people what he can do.
How is this for pressure? You set your alarm for 8am for the next morning because you have your first Nittany Lion team photo scheduled. Except you accidentally set your alarm for 8pm instead.
Well, this happened to Robbie his freshman year and he woke up 15 minutes before the scheduled shoot. Howard ran across campus as fast as humanly possible, and he was able to wipe the sleep from his face and maneuver his hair to look somewhat presentable.
Now that’s pressure.