James brings polished look to MSAs 135-pounder 24-3 for Calvert Hall

February 19, 1993|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,Staff Writer

A college wrestling coach can't go wrong with Calvert Hall's Brendan James, says Cornell Bass.

"He's every coach's vision of the ideal recruit," said Bass, a recruiter liaison and director of the Northwest Wrestling Club, where James trained with the state's summer national team.

James' weight training has increased his musculature. His chest and biceps are larger than most 135-pounders.

And his 3.7 grade-point average and Scholastic Aptitude Test score (1,050) have attracted interest from Stanford, Brown, Lehigh, Virginia and Duke.

"Brendan James is the total package," said Bass. "He's an asset academically, athletically, and he has great moral character."

Kenny Taylor, an assistant at Coppin State, coached the summer national team, where he says James "made a great deal of progress" since winning the Maryland Scholastic Association title at 125 pounds last year.

In summer national competition, James went 4-2, including a close decision loss to an All-American from Iowa. Bass recalls one of James' victories, after which the loser had to be taken by stretcher to a nearby hospital.

"I remember looking into his eyes afterward," said Bass. "He was amazed he could punish someone that way. I knew from that he was a changed wrestler."

Taylor said: "He went out there with no less a dream than being a champion. He's not a horse, but he's very slick and talented. He reminds me of Rico Chiapparelli [a Mount St. Joseph graduate and a former NCAA champion]."

An NCAA title may well be in James' future, but the immediate concern of the state's third-ranked 135-pounder is winning another title in today's MSA tournament.

James, who was third in the MSAs as a freshman and a runner-up in 10th grade, brings a 24-3 record and 99 career victories into this year's event.

And unlike last season, he's going in with plenty of confidence. His most recent victories have come by 2-0 over sixth-ranked Shane Marquess, by 8-0 over two-time MSA champion Tim Spielman (Loyola) and by 9-3 over Mount St. Joseph's then fourth-ranked Paul Scott.

"I'm used to being the underdog," said James. "But this year, I'm more comfortable being where I am."

Just weeks before last year's tournament, James was at zero percent body fat and struggling to remain at 119 pounds. But after moving up to 125, he lost two straight matches -- to Scott, 4-3, and to Ian Robbins (Loyola), 6-0.

"I went into the MSAs thinking, 'Hey, this is all for nothing,' " James said.

James surprised himself with a first-round pin, a 9-1 decision over Gilman's Mike Henke and a 5-1 victory over Scott to earn a title-bout rematch with Robbins.

Robbins had reached the final by pinning his 19th, 20th and 21st opponents for a 28-1 record. And after being taken down in the first five seconds of the match, James thought he would be victim No. 22.

"I was like, 'Here we go again,' " James said. "But somehow, I took advantage of his sloppiness and beat him, 7-4, with a takedown, two reversals and an escape."

Calvert Hall coach Roy Lobdell said: "I was completely stunned, be

cause when Brendan gets frustrated, he can force things. But he just wrestled his match and didn't panic."

James began this season wrestling at 130 pounds and used three pins and a decision en route to winning the Maryland Invitational Tournament at Curley. Uncomfortable at that weight, however, he moved up to 135 for the Annapolis tournament the following week.

There, he dropped a 1-0 loss to Scott and stumbled to a third-place finish. Since then, however, he has settled back into his calm, yet aggressive, style for runner-up finishes in tournaments in Herndon, Va., and New York.

"Beating Brendan is going to be tough because he doesn't concede a point," said Lobdell. "He's got to be the scrappiest wrestler I've ever coached."

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