York bids to pin big title to resume

UM wrestler seeks elusive NCAA crown

March 21, 2002|By Tommy Ventre | Tommy Ventre,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - Brandon York's legacy as a champion is firmly established within the Maryland wrestling program.

Probably the school's most decorated current athlete, along with basketball star Juan Dixon, the senior has won four Atlantic Coast Conference titles, eight open tournaments and almost 140 matches.

Starting today in Albany, N.Y., the Terps senior will try for the last time to cement his legacy on a scale much larger than Maryland and the ACC - the NCAA championships.

"You win all these matches, you win all these tournaments and stuff, but what people remember out of you is if you're an All-American or not," York said.

"Especially since this sport here isn't really that popular, anyway. When people look at [Maryland's] All-Americans and see there's only been a few, it says something to them if you're an All-American from this school.

"I'd definitely trade everything to be one."

So far, it's a distinction that has eluded York, the first wrestler in the 62-year history of the Maryland program to win four straight conference championships. In three trips to the nationals, he's compiled a 2-6 record, with both wins coming in last year's tournament in Iowa City, Iowa.

But entering this year's championships, York said he's feeling better than ever, a telling statement from a wrestler who's won at least 30 matches a season for three straight seasons. At the root of his confidence is the switch he made at the season's outset from the 133-pound weight class to the 141-pound division.

"The way I thought of it last year, my battles were making weight; they weren't on the mat," York said. "If I made weight, I felt I won the battle.

"And then I had to go and wrestle. This year, it's totally different. I don't even think about it anymore, and that's such an advantage because now I can concentrate on my match and what I've got to do to win."

The benefits of the switch have manifested themselves in York's numbers.

His season record stands at a personal-best 37-5, including a 13-1 mark in dual meets. He broke the Terps' all-time career wins record in January with his 130th, a 12-6 decision over Bucknell's Brandon Green. He's since raised that mark to 139.

York also won 141-pound titles in the Millersville Invitational and the Wilkes Open. His lone dual-meet loss came at the hands of Navy's Mark Conley, the nation's top-ranked 141-pounder and a possible opponent this week in Albany.

Maryland coach John McHugh, a two-time ACC champion himself and a man who has coached six All-Americans since returning to guide his alma mater in 1979, said York is as good as any he's had.

"I've told our guys, especially our freshmen, that being a four-time ACC champion doesn't happen by accident. He's worked harder than anybody. A lot of people can work hard, but he's one of the hardest workers I've ever had. ... I'll send the guys out for a run and most of them will jog. York will run."

For York, that hard work has always been a part of the formula. A two-time state champion at Damascus High in Montgomery County, he was lightly recruited by colleges and wasn't even sure he'd make Maryland's team his first year there. He did, though, and hasn't looked back.

The same formula will be in place this week in Albany.

"Usually, the work ethic outweighs the talent," said York, who credits his deep religious faith for much of his success. "There's going to be a lot of guys that come in with a lot of talent, but they're not going to really get anywhere if they don't work hard, and that's common sense.

"I listen to what my coaches say, and I work out, and I go as hard as I can every time I go. That's all I can do."

NOTES: Iowa State's Cael Sanderson is looking to become the first wrestler to go undefeated during a four-year collegiate career. Sanderson, whose career mark is 154-0, competes at 197 pounds after winning three titles at 187. ... Rosedale's Tom Gaylin, the nation's top-rated official for the last five years, will be working his 11th straight NCAA tournament.

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