COLLEGE PARK -- Maybe Maryland wrestler Kevin Brown should help his family move again before the Atlantic Coast Conference championships. Maybe he should take a few days off before the tournament and carry boxes up and down stairs, like he did last year.
It worked then. Despite coach John McHugh's fear that the move would be a distraction, Brown won the ACC title at 190 pounds.
Now, as a Terps junior co-captain, the former Poly athlete is preparing an encore. Brown missed a few weeks with a bad knee over Christmas and was beaten this month by a North Carolina State freshman, but McHugh isn't ruling out another title for him in the ACC tournament March 6-7 at N.C. State.
"It could be a good tournament for him," McHugh said. "He can still win it."
There should be no distractions this time. Last year, Brown was helping his parents move out of the Lafayette projects in East Baltimore, where they had lived since fire drove them from their home when Kevin was in junior high school, into their present house near Druid Hill Park.
"We were like displaced people," Brown said. "We spent five years in the projects. When my cousin and her five kids moved in with us, it was like living in a sardine can.
"When I graduate from Maryland, I'm going back to Baltimore to administer youth programs in the inner city. They need a person who's been there."
When Brown first met McHugh, he was wrestling in the Maryland Scholastic Association tournament. His Poly coach, Bill Hastings, had touted McHugh on him.
"This little short guy [McHugh] walked up and said, 'How would you like to go to college, with expenses paid?'" Brown said. "I couldn't believe it was so simple."
Said McHugh, "He fit all the requirements for admission, including the good grades. Big guys like that are hard to get because football usually takes them. They're swayed by the glamour of football."
Brown was a linebacker at Poly, but felt he had more control over his success in an individual sport like wrestling. Anyway, he viewed the Maryland scholarship "as a ticket out of the projects."
Not ready for Division I wrestling, Brown was redshirted as a freshman. He came back the following year to finish third in the ACC, thereby qualifying for the NCAA tournament in the friendly confines of Cole Field House. Still, he lost in the first round.
"The nationals intimidated him," McHugh said. "He got the yips. He was overwhelmed by the scene -- bouts being held on eight mats at the same time, big crowds."
Brown pointedly avoids the word "intimidated" to describe how he felt, allowing only that "the guys are more physical in the NCAAs, the intensity is turned up and there's no coach to hold your hand because there are so many matches going on at one time."
Brown's second exposure to the NCAA tournament atmosphere was last year at Iowa, a wrestling hotbed.
Before 15,000 people, all yelling, Brown let his first-round opponent from Oregon State get him in a choke-hold, forcing him to spit blood. He lost that match, made a quick trip to the hospital to get checked out, and came back in the losers' bracket only to lose again, to a Miami of Ohio wrestler.
Brown now feels he has ample NCAA tournament seasoning. But before he gets any bright ideas about competing in the event for the third time, March 19-21 in Oklahoma City, he has some business to take care of.
He will have to get past that impudent freshman who licked him in a dual meet, Dan Madson of N.C. State, in the ACC tournament.