Pats' 'Pit Bull' primed to pounce

February 11, 1994|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,Sun Staff Writer

Before her son Jason uttered his first syllable, Betty Bryant says her son exhibited a persistence that belied his age.

"He never learned to crawl -- he wanted to walk first," she said. "I'd want to help him as he'd struggle to his feet, but he always refused it. He was a tough little kid who'd rather stand there or fall flat on his face.

"He's still stubborn that way. When he sets his mind to do something, that's it."

Nowadays, Jason, who turned 19 on Feb. 7, has his sights set on winning his second regional wrestling title along with the 112-pound Class 3A-4A state title for Old Mill, where his tenacity on the mats has earned him the nickname "The Pit Bull."

Old Mill's original Pit Bull was two-time state champion Chuck Sturm, a 1982 graduate who parlayed his style into a professional boxing career, though coach Mike Hampe says there is no connection between the nicknames.

The bruising yet technical styles are similar, however, and Bryant has built a 20-2 record, including 10 pins and two technical falls. The senior stalwart has earned a No. 3 ranking from the Maryland State Wrestling Association.

"I just try to be hard-nosed in just about everything I do," said Bryant, a B student. "If something doesn't work out the first time, I just try to get things done by working harder."

The dedication, along with pointers from assistant coaches Jay Braunstein and Walt Puller, has helped Bryant -- in his seventh year of wrestling -- to improve each season.

Bryant went 24-9 as a sophomore, placing second in the county and regionals and fourth in the states. Last year's 32-5 campaign included his second straight Annapolis Tournament crown, titles the county and regional meets and a third-place state tournament effort.

Last year's state tournament included falls in two of Bryant's five bouts, with a semifinal 7-6 overtime loss to runner-up Chiyanna Black (Frederick Douglass) costing him a title-bout berth. Black lost, 3-2, in the final to Thomas Stone's Quincy Dames as Bryant rebounded to edge Thomas Johnson's Joey Ottinger -- presently ranked No. 5 at 119 -- for third place.

"I think I took Black too lightly. And every time I think about that match, it motivates me," Bryant said. "I feel like I've improved a lot since last year, with a lot of confidence in my abilities. But I'm just taking every match one at a time."

Bryant's next big challenge appears to be Northeast's No. 2-ranked, 1A-2A state champion Marty Kusick (19-1, 12 pins) in ++ next week's county tournament. Kusick is the top seed, and Bryant No. 2.

First, Bryant likely will have to get past South River's Travis Murdoch in the semifinals. Murdoch beat Bryant, 6-3, two years ago but was pinned by him earlier this season.

Bryant's only losses this year came against Virginia state champion Shawn Darnell (15-0) of Great Bridge, and National Prep champ Todd Beckerman (35-0), a Crofton resident who attends DeMatha.

"They both got ahead of me and I was trying to catch up," Bryant said. "I felt like the last two periods were mine -- I just didn't score enough."

Each was a lopsided loss, with Darnell winning, 14-6, and Beckerman, 14-4.

"Beckerman's pretty slick, and he negated Jason's bull-like strength early," Hampe said. "Darnell started out tearing up Jason, but Jason ended up putting him on his back in a great match."

Bryant locked up on two other quality wrestlers -- North Carroll's No. 4 Doug Dell and W. T. Woodson's Jen Park. A state-runner-up who pinned Bryant last year, Dell lost, 6-5, to Bryant in the Patriots' 27-26 victory over North Carroll.

Bryant also won two tough Virginia Tournaments -- the Northern Virginia Invitational and the St. Stephen's Invitational -- including a 6-4 victory over Park, who was third in Virginia last year.

"That's what happens most times because Jason can be very explosive," Hampe said. "Jason likes to score points, so he's going to lock up on a guy and wear him out. That's why we call him The Pit Bull."

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