He puts lock on QBs, heavyweights alike

High schools: Unlike last year, it won't surprise anyone if Jeremy Navarre, who's also a football star, wins a state wrestling title this weekend.

March 04, 2004|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

None of it seems to faze Joppatowne junior Jeremy Navarre.

Not the volumes of recruiting mail that arrive at his home from such college football powers as Maryland, Virginia Tech and Penn State.

Not his streak of wrestling perfection, which ended this past weekend when the 6-foot-4, 235-pounder was scored on in a heavyweight match for the first time all season.

Navarre even bristled at the suggestion that there is an extra burden in defending a state wrestling title that he seemingly came out of nowhere to win.

"I don't feel any pressure at all," said the 16-year-old, who won the Class 2A-1A state championship last year at 215 pounds and joined his father, Mariners assistant coach George Navarre, as the only state champions in Joppatowne history. "Everybody is out there to beat me, but I'm enjoying it. I'm enjoying all of it."

The Sun's top-ranked heavyweight, Navarre, who claimed his second straight 2A-1A North title last weekend by pinning Pikesville's Phil Thomas, goes into this weekend's state championships in College Park as one of the favorites.

"He's obviously very good at both sports, but I think he's a more dominant wrestler," said Bel Air wrestling coach Craig Reddish, who is also an assistant with the Bobcats' football team. "In wrestling, he just destroys people."

Navarre (33-0, 25 pins) has gone into the third period of a match only three times all season. When Thomas put him on his back in the region final on Saturday, it was the first time Navarre had been scored on all season.

But Navarre refocused, went back to his game plan and pinned Thomas in 3:33 for the title. Navarre is also a two-time Harford County champion.

"He's head over heels better than he was last year," said Joppatowne coach Ryan Arist. "He's constantly working harder. Last year, wrestling was his hobby and he won because of his athleticism. This year, he's becoming a student of the sport."

Much of the work has been done in the weight room, where Navarre, who has only 8 percent body fat and can bench-press 310 pounds, has made people forget about the lanky, 6-foot-1, 185-pound freshman who struggled to sustain a block or make a tackle on the football field.

"He's an original," said John Carroll heavyweight Zack Tscheulin, who won a Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association title this season, but lost by major decision and technical fall to Navarre the two times they met this season.

"Most of the heavyweights I wrestle are strong and lumbering, but he wrestles like a lower weight. He shoots all the time, he's strong, he's quick and he knows what he's doing."

Even with his state-championship pedigree, Navarre only dabbled in wrestling before high school.

"I tried to get him to a wrestle camp, but he just didn't want to do it. It's always football," said George Navarre, who won his state title in 1981 and is also the only Mariner to go undefeated for a season, another benchmark his son is threatening.

A broken ankle ended Navarre's freshman wrestling season, and he was close to not wrestling as a sophomore. However, the creation of the 215-pound weight class - he weighed 210 pounds at the time, considerably less than most heavyweights - helped his decision, and he admitted he wanted to try to match his father's achievement.

Still, he didn't expect to end his first full season with an 8-6 overtime victory over Aberdeen's Justin Brown in the state final.

The usually stoic Navarre jumped off the mat, pumped his fist violently and bear-hugged his coaches.

"It overwhelmed me," said Navarre, who finished the season 30-2. "You know you are pretty talented because wrestling is in your blood, but I really had much more success than I planned on having. My goal was to try to get in the top three [in states] by senior year."

Asked what championship meant more to him - the wrestling or the football (Class 1A) crown - Navarre, who will also participate in track this spring, didn't hesitate, saying, "The wrestling was nice, but it's an individual thing. The football title, you can share it with so many people."

Navarre, who has a 3.3 grade point average and scored 940 on his SAT, plans to concentrate on football in college. He is being recruited by some of the nation's top programs after earning All-State and All-Metro honors this past season.

As a defensive end for the state champion Mariners, Navarre had 12 sacks, 152 tackles, five forced fumbles and five recoveries this season. He was also the fullback in his team's power-I set and the team's long snapper.

"At times toward the end of the year, it was though he just put us on his back," said Mariners football coach Greg Komondor, who called Navarre the best quiet leader he's ever coached.

Just 48 hours after helping the Mariners to the title, Navarre, the Harford County Defensive Player of the Year, was wrestling competitively, after just 45 minutes of practice the day before.

He recalls feeling lost that day, but he pinned a North Harford opponent in a little over two minutes. He quietly walked off, seemingly unimpressed with his achievement.

"A lot of people take advantage of notoriety, but Jeremy is not that type," said Joppatowne senior Jeremiah Waters, an All-County lineman. "That's what impresses me most about him. He doesn't have to talk about it. He does what he has to do and his actions speak for themselves."

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