Josh Brown has been wrestling two weights up from where he finished off last year, but the Claysburg-Kimmel senior 120-pounder is more equipped than most to handle the increased weight and bigger opponents.
The two-time Class AA state qualifier is strong and aggressive, and his big-move capability makes him dangerous enough to make any deficit not seem that large.
"One of the things that has gotten him by is he has a street fighter mentality," Bulldogs coach Dave Marko said. "That's the style we want out of our Claysburg wrestlers. I want their physical nature to be someone who will push and push. Josh exemplifies that in a lot of ways.
Mirror file photo
C-K’s Josh Brown hit Ligonier Valley’s Justin Patrick with a headlock in last year’s District 6 finals.
"I think that street fighter mentality is something you can push and teach, but it's something that has to be born with you. Josh has that naturally. He's the kind of guy if your friends are in trouble in a fight, you want Josh around. He has that little guy mentality that he's not going to take crap from anybody. He's a tough kid.
"If you put that same body and attitude in a 210-pound guy, he would be a monumental success in any sport. He was a successful football player. How many kids that size can be good at varsity football?"
Brown did play football for the first time in high school this past season, started at cornerback for the Bulldogs and made a lot of tackles.
n He is a two-time District 6 finalist and two-time state qualifier.
n He's 12-4 with five pins as a senior.
n He has a career record of 78-23 in three years.
That shouldn't come as any surprise, especially with how Marko glowingly described his star wrestler. Brown says his aggressive nature wasn't always within him, though.
"I changed my style when I got to varsity," he said. "It was something that I planned on doing. I wanted to have more offense and just attack a lot more. It made a big difference."
But, what about that jump? He's 12-4 with five pins and is ranked No. 1 in the Mirror rankings at 120. Three of his losses came when he was bumped up to 126, including one to Tyrone's Jason Schopp, 10-4. His only loss at 120 was to Ligonier Valley's Justin Patrick, 4-2 in overtime. Patrick beat Brown in the District 6 and Southwest Regional finals last season.
"I think I've been wrestling good," Brown said. "I lost a couple matches at 126 in which I didn't wrestle very good. But, it's only going to make me better wrestling tougher kids."
"I think he's wrestling well," Marko said. "It's been an adjustment wrestling up in weight. At one point or another, he was winning in all of those matches. We just have to hold onto leads. He's very talented. The speed and size combination he has for the weight class is outstanding. He has every physical attribute you could possibly want."
Despite not coming up as a freshman, Brown has a shot of reaching 100 wins. He's 78-23 after going 35-12 as a sophomore and 31-7 as a junior. Brown says he regrets not coming up as a freshman.
"I could have had a lot more experience with one more year on varsity," he said. "It's sort of hard because I didn't know if I was ready for varsity."
"Whenever he was a freshman, we would have liked to have pulled him up," Marko said. "He made the decision to stay at the junior high, and he would have been undersized with us. But, he's still capable of getting 100 wins. He would be the first in our program to get to 100 wins without coming up as a freshman."
When the postseason hits this season, Brown will be down to 113, and he'll be looking for his first district and regional title. He's finished second at districts both years, losing to Cambria Heights' Ryan Dupas as a sophomore. Brown qualified for states as a sophomore by beating District 7 runner-up Russ Losteter, 3-2, in the fifth-place bout.
"I'd be lying if him making it to states shocked us," Marko said. "He knocked off guys who were awfully successful. He beat Patrick in the district semifinals. At regionals, he knocked off [Northern Bedford's Mason] Replogle. When he was in ninth grade, he wrestled [Bedford's] Cory Thomas, and that was a barnburner.
"He's got big-move potential. He can score points in bunches. An example of that is when he was wrestling [Forest Hills] Triston Law in the district semis last year. It seemed like a boring 1-0 match, and neither guy was getting anything going, and Josh takes him down, puts him on his back and it's over [in 1:56]. As far as excitement level, he's one of my favorites I've watched that I've coached."
Brown even hit Patrick with a headlock in the district finals, but Patrick came back to win in overtime, 8-6. Patrick won, 8-2, in the regional finals, and it didn't get any better for Brown in Hershey, going 0-2, including a 7-4 consolation loss to Burgettstown's Austin McDermitt, whom he had beaten, 8-6, in the regional semifinals.
"Last year, he took good steps forward even though it didn't work out in Hershey," Marko said. "He could have been a placewinner. He had a tough draw, and it's tough when you drop down into the wrestlebacks. It had to be hard looking at the guys on the medals stand. To see two guys who you've beaten place there I'm sure was difficult to handle."
"Hopefully, I can get a district title, a regional title and a state medal this year," Brown said. "I'm just the type of guy who gets nervous around a bunch of people in a big area. It's exciting, and it's fun being at states, but I get nervous."