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Valley grad shows knack for cricket

Valley graduate Ian Carlin has picked off pursuers with paint ball guns, zipped down a half-pipe on a skateboard and attempted extreme jumps on a snowboard.

Over the years, he's developed a competitive knack in just about every off-the-wall sport he's tried.

His latest venture is no different.

The College of Wooster (Ohio) senior now tries to stump out batsmen while playing for his school's cricket club team, in which he also serves as president.

A combination of beginner's luck, natural skill and serious interest have turned Carlin into one of the sport's up-and-coming stars.

"Who knows• Maybe I'll pick up ice hockey next," joked Carlin, 22, who plays wicket-keeper, a position similar to catcher in baseball.

Initially, Carlin set out to continue his football career at Wooster. He played running back at Valley and also dabbled in basketball, baseball and track during his prep days at Penn-Trafford and Valley.

Carlin graduated from Valley in 2007, but he attended Penn-Trafford until his senior year.

His interest in cricket began rather nonchalantly when he sat down to watch a match with his college residential adviser, Ali Raza, a native of Pakistan.

Raza talked Carlin into playing some indoor cricket and he almost immediately became hooked on the game, which dates to 16th century England.

"It's the middle of the night and I'm watching this game taking place halfway around the world," Carlin said. "I played some indoor cricket first, with a tape ball.

"I started playing my junior year with a hard ball and joined the team. It kicked off from there."

Carlin has prospered in the sport in a short period of time. After performing well at last season's collegiate championship in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., he drew praise from American College Cricket and was given the John Bart King Award as the country's top U.S.-born cricket player and was one of the ACC's five players of the year.

"It's still kind of weird to hear that," said Carlin, the first American-born president of the school's club in its 25-year history.

Carlin will compete in this year's spring break championships March 15-20 in Fort Lauderdale.

Who knows what accolades Carlin might garner with another strong performance?

He was featured in Sports Illustrated's "Faces in the Crowd" column Jan. 31.

Carlin's lifelong friend is Toney Clemons, another Valley graduate who plays wide receiver for the University of Colorado.

Clemons is pleased to see his friend thrive in such an obscure sport -- at least to many Americans.

"It's a complete culture change, but he's going hard with it," Clemons said in a text message. "He was always our goalie growing up when we played soccer and hockey in gym class, so I guess it translated."

Carlin and Clemons played youth football together. Carlin said he still follows football, which, although it's a more mainstream sport, may have been his first love.

"Yeah, I miss it," he said. "I started playing when I was six; seven in pads. When you play that long, you're going to miss it. Cricket is different. It's so competitive and people have so much passion for the sport. Sometimes, football can have that business-like feel to it."

Carlin is one of just two Americans on a worldly Wooster roster that includes players from Jamaica, Bosnia and the Netherlands.

Carlin hopes to play cricket after college, but he plans to pursue a career in finance after graduating in May.

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