The sport's in their blood

Wrestling: Oakland Mills' Jason and Chris Orem are third-generation grapplers, with a mat, not to mention matches, in their basement bedroom.

February 17, 2000|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF

Jason and Chris Orem of Oakland Mills don't have to go far to practice wrestling, their sport. Roll out of bed. They're ready.

The brothers, third-generation wrestlers, have turned their basement bedroom into a wrestling haven equipped with a 10 x 10-foot wrestling mat and a 5 x 8-foot weightlifting apparatus called a home gym.

One wall is plastered with wrestling goals, instructional material, and 2 x 4-foot American flag. Bunk beds and desks take up the remaining space.

"A lot of our friends and teammates come over and work out here," Jason said.

The unusual arrangement borders on fanaticism. And their enthusiasm is at least partly inherited.

Their grandfather, Reginald, wrestled at the Naval Academy 50 years ago. Their uncle, Tom, wrestled on full scholarship at Maryland from 1974 to 1977. Reginald travels from Prince George's County and Tom from Montgomery County to attend Oakland Mills wrestling matches. The Orems, as a group, also attend Maryland matches at College Park.

Jason, a 112-pound senior, is the more serious and accomplished of the brothers. He finished fourth in the county last season and is 19-6 this winter. All of his losses were to strong opponents, such as Darien Kess (Archbishop Curley) and county champ Jason Freiert (Hammond), and three were at 119 pounds.

Jason finished second at the Arundel and Damascus tournaments, and his goal is to win county and state titles.

A year-round wrestler with the Oakland Mills Orange Crush and the Hammond Headhunters, he's a two-time freestyle and Greco-Roman state champ in the high-school division. He's also a state champ in open-age group Greco-Roman and runner-up in freestyle.

Jason is so determined to do well that he didn't let several concussions stop him from wrestling last summer.

"We've benefited from having many good coaches," Jason said. "Everyone has tried to help us."

Former Oakland Mills coach Brian Chadwick lives across the street.

Current Oakland Mills coach Brad Howell describes Jason, a team captain, as "not a beast -- just hard core. He's totally serious. A manic trainer who gets up before dawn to run. He's a wrestling sponge. He goes to other matches and pulls up results on the Internet. He studies it as much as I do."

Howell thinks that Jason's fanaticism is starting to pay off.

"He wasn't expected to be a force, but he's catching and passing guys," Howell said. "He's quietly snuck in. He's proof that an average athlete can excel in wrestling through work ethic."

Jason helps to coach a junior-league team, is a sportswriter for his school newspaper, and is a strong student with a weighted 3.8 grade-point average and 1,280 SAT. He wants to wrestle for Western Maryland and study biology.

Although some people mistake the brothers for twins, Chris, a 119-pound junior, is different from his older brother.

"He's more of a free spirit," said Howell.

Chris' GPA (2.8) is much lower than Jason's. But at 5-foot-6, Chris is two inches taller than his brother. And he was born in Maryland. Jason was born in California.

Despite injuring the ligaments in his right wrist during the team's third practice this season, Chris has an 11-12 record. His second-place Arundel finish and four pins show promise.

A former state champ in gymnastics, Chris said he became burned out by gymnastics tournaments every weekend and turned to wrestling. Having a brother to wrestle against every day helped to develop his interest.

Chris has beaten his brother -- but not often.

The friendly rivalry is good for both of them -- and for a young Oakland Mills team that hopes to make a name for itself at the county tournament this weekend.

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