Losses few, but they weigh heavily on Navy's Bourne

March 14, 1991|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Sun Staff Correspondent

ANNAPOLIS -- Brett Bourne remembers nearly every win, but he never forgets a defeat.


"I had won the state title my junior year in high school and 69 straight matches," Bourne said. "Then, in the state championship of my senior year, I lost to a guy I had beaten three times. I ZTC haven't forgotten that. It still annoys and bothers me until this day."

Bourne, an intense senior heavyweight on the Naval Academy's wrestling team, has used that emotional low and a strong showing in last year's nationals to become one of the favorites in the 1991 National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I tournament today through Saturday at the University of Iowa.

Bourne will compete along with three other Midshipmen, freshman Jeff Stepanic (118-pound weight class, 17-11-2 record), junior Mark Smith (126, 24-1-0) and senior Steve Cantrell (177, 27-2-2).

Bourne (29-3-1) finished a surprisingly high fifth in the tournament last year. Anything less this time would be disappointing.

"That one loss helps keep me going," said Bourne, an All-American. "It wasn't the fact that I lost, but I didn't wrestle up to my potential."

Coach Reg Wicks has watched the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Bourne progress from oversized lightweight to undersized heavyweight.

"When he was a freshman in high school, Brett wrestled 105," Wicks said. "You always knew there was that foundation there for an outstanding college wrestler. And now he uses his height for leverage, and it's a definite advantage. But the thing that really impresses me with Brett is his mental toughness. The kid doesn't like to lose. He's just so focused and intense."

But not quite as much as in previous years. There were times when teammates wondered whether Bourne ever smiled. All he seemed to talk about was being a paratrooper, a Marine and a wrestler.

Then he was named captain this year. He loosened up. He chided players who had to lose weight by eating in front of them. He took items from fellow wrestlers' rooms and put them in the rooms of women he thought they liked.

His success is surprising, since he is 25 to 30 pounds lighter than the average college heavyweight.

Heavyweights usually counter instead of attack. Bourne, who has nine pins this season, can do it all.

"When I first met him, he didn't look too smart," said Stepanic, smiling. "He looked like your typical heavyweight -- big, dumb-looking. And you know how heavyweights wrestle. They just do enough to win.

"But Brett is totally different. He's a decent student, master jumper and has his scuba wings. . . . He's very aggressive, and when he has to he can take the match to an opponent."

Bourne will have to be aggressive to win the championship. The heavyweight division, which includes Illinois' Jon Llewellyn, Clarion's Kurt Angle and North Carolina State's Sylvester Terkay, is one of the best in recent years.

Terkay defeated Bourne, 2-0, this year. Bourne's other losses were to Penn State's Marc Pedwe, 4-3, and West Virginia's Domineck Black, 4-2. Black since has moved back to the 190-pound class.

Bourne doesn't need to be reminded of his losses.

"I've wrestled a lot of guys who were faster, stronger, bigger and had more athletic talent than me," he said. "But I've always prided myself on being a smart wrestler. I try not to let mistakes beat me. I try not to let those things [losses] happen twice. I remember."

Local wrestlers in tournament

?5Local wrestlers in the NCAA Division I championships

Name, school.. .. .. Wgt.. Record

.. .. .. .. .. .. ..class

Brett Bourne, Navy.. Hwt.. 29-3-1

Jeff Stepanic, Navy. 118.. 17-11-2

Mark Smith, Navy. .. 126.. 24-1-0

Steve Cantrell, Navy 177.. 27-2-2

Dan McIntyre, Maryland 118 22-6-2

Tom Miller, Maryland 142.. 27-3-1

Matt Caro, Maryland. 158.. 23-11-1

Mike Caro, Maryland. 177.. 29-9-1

*Kevin Brown, Maryland 190 22-6-2

Dontae Smith, Morgan 118.. 21-5-1

*From Poly

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