Lauer Back On The Mat And Looking Ahead

December 10, 2004

Morgantown, W.Va. – With a history of 67 NCAA individual appearances and an overall record of 221-148-6 under head coach Craig Turnbull, its not surprising that this year’s members of the West Virginia University wrestling team are confident they will, once again, be attending the league championship tournament.

What is surprising is that senior Brandon Lauer, who spent his freshmen and junior year sidelined with a nagging shoulder injury, has every intention of being there as well.

“I have expectations of being a national champion and so do nine other guys in the lineup,” says Lauer, who has two years of eligibility remaining. “It’s encouraging when you surround yourselves with those kinds of people who are working towards the same goal you are.”

Lauer, a senior physical education teaching major, admits the road back to recovery has been a long and sometimes frustrating one.

“I struggled early on but I’m definitely in better shape then I was at the beginning of the season,” says WVU’s 141-pounder. “I lifted a lot of weights to make sure my shoulder was strong and did my rehabilitation to make sure I didn’t have any nagging problems coming in.”

Physically he says he feels pretty strong. Perhaps, more importantly, Lauer is feeling mentally strong which has guided him to a 7-3 record early on in the 2004-05 campaign.

“I’ve gotten better with scouting my opponents because all I could do with my time off was study my opponents and even my own tendencies, and try to create more weapons to add to my arsenal of techniques,” adds Lauer.

In fact, Lauer’s arsenal of techniques is quite impressive, as he has wrestled since the fourth grade when his father helped start a county youth program in Highland, Md.

“The whole point was to even the ability level between all the high schools in the county so they could compete on the state level,” says Lauer. “At that time we were just getting smacked around as a county as a whole.”

The youth program started with 40 wrestlers who participated on two teams and has blossomed today to include eight teams, two travel teams and over 230 wrestlers. Lauer himself, wrestled in the league through his freshmen year at River Hill High. At just 90 pounds, Lauer believes he was too light to wrestle on the high school team until his sophomore year. Today he runs his own summer wrestling camp called Next Level Wrestling.

“The whole thing is just to try and take kids to the next level so they become better wrestlers overall,” says a more mature Lauer.

Lauer says at times young wrestlers take for granted the little things that must be done to become a great wrestler.

“When I started I was naive to the whole college scene,” says Lauer. “I don’t think that I really understood the whole game; how much of it is staying healthy and being mentally sharp, and how long the season is and how it can wear on you. Anybody can beat anybody on any given day, weather your ranked number one or number 100.”

Despite being named to the Amateur Wrestling News all-rookie team in 2002 and tying for eighth-place on WVU’s all-time wins list for freshmen, Lauer admits there has been plenty of room for growth over the past four years.

“I think now I’m more in tune to the fact that you’re going to be tired in a match, your opponent’s going to be tired and you’re going to have to push through that,” says Lauer.

The primary difference for Lauer between the 2004-2005 season and past seasons is the move upwards from 133 pounds to the 141-pound weight class.

“In the past I’ve had a hard time with my diet,” says the NCAA All-American. “This gives me an angle not to focus on cutting weight so much and my diet, and to focus on being in shape, wrestling hard and my technique all the way through.”

Wrestling all new opponents is an added bonus for Lauer. Lauer graduates this December with a bachelor’s degree and will begin taking graduate classes in education leadership this spring. With two more years of eligibility left, there is plenty of time for more wrestling and academics. Lauer says he hopes to someday return to River Hill High and teach health education, but that collegiate coaching is always a possibility. As most young professionals his age, he knows his future plans are changing constantly.

What Lauer does know for sure is that this could be a very rewarding season for himself and the entire WVU wrestling team. “We have high expectations for ourselves and I think that’s good because if we don’t there’s really no point in it. If we stay healthy, it could be a banner year for this team.”

By Linda Reynolds, a graduate student in the WVU sports management graduate program

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