Transformation at Hopkins

Foot soldier Wedin assumes commission as a leader for Jays

April 27, 2001|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

Eric Wedin doesn't complain about his first three seasons of lacrosse at Johns Hopkins, which were limited to the grunt work of faceoffs. He doesn't criticize the doctors who failed in 1999 to detect the broken ankle that cost him months of conditioning.

A good soldier out of Levittown, N.Y., Wedin quietly went about the business of being a Blue Jay until March 3. After Princeton hammered Hopkins to the tune of 8-1 through three quarters, Wedin asked Dave Pietramala if he could interrupt his debut as the Hopkins coach to address the team's huddle.

"With the void we had at the offensive end, he became our emotional and vocal leader there," Pietramala said. "He's a proud kid, and he was embarrassed.

"Eric said, `Enough's enough.' That was the defining moment in his career. ... It's been a very interesting metamorphosis."

Once a pudgy, unassuming faceoff specialist, Wedin has emerged from a cocoon and transformed himself into one of the nation's busiest players and a leader to boot. In addition to handling faceoffs, Wedin anchors the first midfield and stays on for man-down situations.

The faceoff fight between Wedin and Justin Berry will be crucial when No. 4 Hopkins goes to No. 10 Towson tomorrow, when another subplot at Minnegan Stadium will contrast two of the nation's biggest surprises.

While transfer Kyle Campbell has taken the Tigers' attack to another level, Wedin has had an unanticipated MVP season for the Blue Jays.

Neither is among the 19 players up for the Tewaaraton Trophy, one of the myriad Player of the Year awards, but how many of the nominees have had a bigger impact?

Less has become more for the 5-foot-9 Wedin, who watched his weight balloon to 230 pounds in the fall of 1999. He played at 210 last season, but after a hot day on artificial turf, he's closer to 185.

Besides leading the nation in ground balls and taking 92.4 percent of Hopkins' faceoffs, Wedin has made the most of finally being a regular midfielder, as he's the Blue Jays' second-best point-getter.

Wedin has 13 goals and eight assists. His first three seasons produced five, seven and few comments.

"With me, whatever the coach wants, that's what I do," Wedin said. "It's always been a little frustrating, but you can't worry about yourself over the team."

Current Towson coach Tony Seaman was the Hopkins boss and Pietramala was an assistant when Wedin chose Hopkins.

A tailback-linebacker, he was voted the top prep football player in Nassau County, but he was captivated by college lacrosse and didn't even want to hear Joe Paterno's Penn State recruiting pitch.

"Tony [Seaman] and I loved his toughness," Pietramala said. "Eric played lacrosse like a steelworker. He wasn't unbelievably skilled, but what an athlete."

When an injury slowed A.T. Bailey before the 1998 season, Seaman asked for volunteers with faceoff experience. Wedin raised his hand and got a tutorial from then Blue Jays assistant Paul Cantabene, who now coaches Berry at Towson.

A.J. Haugen and Conor Denihan developed into All-American middies for Hopkins, and Wedin's faceoff role became more constricted when he took a nasty hit in the Vail (Colo.) tourney in July 1999.

The injury wasn't X-rayed until he returned to Long Island. Wedin limped around for two months before undergoing surgery, and instead of the Hopkins weight room, his rehab was spent at Charles Village pizzerias.

"I wasn't taking care of myself," Wedin said. "Last season, I played with what I could."

Pietramala needed more production and a lesser Wedin, who slimmed down as the Hopkins midfield corps entered this season thinned by injuries to the likes of Denihan and Rob Frattarola.

"We had a serious, closed-door meeting before the winter break," Pietramala said. "Eric kept telling us that he wanted to run a midfield and still face off, but he wasn't working like a guy who wanted to do both.

"He went home, had some hand surgery that he had been putting off, and came back for this semester in unbelievable shape."

Wedin was humbled by Syracuse's Chris Cercy in last season's NCAA semifinals. In March, he nearly broke even against the national leader in faceoff percentage and pumped in five goals in an upset win at the Carrier Dome.

He had three goals at Maryland, but grew weary at the end, one reason Pietramala has taken to resting him one practice a week.

Where once there were complaints about Wedin's condition, now his coaches worry about his workload and give him days off.

Wedin's stats

Year FO % Goals Assists

1998 58.5 2 2

1999 57.1 2 3

2000 59.3 1 2

2001 58.2 13 8

Career 58.4 18 15

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