NEW CARLISLE — In New Prairie’s mid-December wrestling match with South Bend Washington, Josh Brewer faced some serious adversity.
The sophomore laid underneath the weight of his opponent who weighed over 20 pounds more than Brewer and towered over him height-wise. Being on the ground is typically one of a wrestler’s biggest fears. But not Brewer.
“I like being on the bottom a lot, actually,” Brewer said. “Being on the bottom, essentially, it’s a way to turn the tides of a match. It’s a lot more of a challenge, but I like the challenge.”
Overcoming someone far bigger than him, while being on the bottom, takes near-perfect technique. Brewer didn’t get to 37 wins this year by being technically sloppy though. He’s a slow, methodical wrestler that sets up his winning moves by keeping his cool and relying on sound technique.
Brewer saw an opportunity to “Peterson” his opponent – a maneuver where the wrestler on the bottom grasps their arms around the opposition’s thigh and arm, rolling them over onto their stomach. Brewer slowly made his move to do so and effectively ‘Petersoned’ his opponent, resulting in an easy pin moments later.
“A lot of my matches this year have been like that with me going down and coming back out on top,” Brewer said. “A lot of it really is just passion. I don’t care that I fall behind in matches or anything. I’ve focused a lot on my technique this year and I know that if I pull these moves off correctly, I’m always in a position to win.”
“He gives up a lot of points,” New Prairie coach Bob Whitenack added. “But then he’ll score rapid points real quick too. When he’s put on his back, he’s able to fight out of it. He never gives up and next thing you know, he’s winning.”
The way Brewer has won a fair amount of matches, in comeback fashion, is a metaphor of sorts for his wrestling career thus far. A year ago, he was just a freshman on junior varsity – undersized for the 220 weight class at just 195 pounds, and still is – with multiple seniors ahead of him on the depth chart.
He didn’t feel like his wrestling career had much meaning or promise, competing in just junior varsity matches and tournaments. Brewer contemplated his future in the sport because of it.
“Last year, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue to keep wrestling,” he said. “I kind of wasn’t into it as much. I wasn’t getting a lot of action. Being more passionate with the sport really helped me make the jump from last year to where I am now. I didn’t put much effort into it last year. But putting as much effort into wrestling as I have this year, I’ve grown so much because of it.”
Perfecting his technique has tremendously helped Brewer’s progression into one of the best wrestlers in the state. Whitenack makes sure all his wrestlers, especially the heavier ones, are technically sound and don’t just rely on brute strength and force.
With Brewer weighing 195 and wrestling in the 220 weight class, that’s certainly something he can’t rely on. If he tried to win matches by doing so, it likely wouldn’t work out more times than not. Being able to control the mental aspect of wrestling has been extremely beneficial for Brewer this year.
“He’s very patient and waits for things to happen, as opposed to forcing things,” Whitenack said.
“A lot of the bigger kids force things and make something happen, and when they fail, Josh is able to counter it and take advantage of their mistakes. He uses better angles and is able to execute moves really well.”
Another way Brewer has been able to take down larger opponent after larger opponent is the variety of guys he practices against. From teammates coming in at 6-foot-5, to quicker, more methodical wrestlers, he’s been able to take down a large range of people.
More often than not, Brewer faces someone bigger, stronger, taller than him. But staying nimble and sparring with wrestlers with the same mentality as him just polishes his technical skills even more.
His technique will have to be as close to perfect as its ever been this Saturday if he is to advance to the state championship. But regardless of his outcome in the East Chicago Semistate, Brewer has an extremely successful sophomore season to be proud of and build upon for the future.
“If you told me last year that I would be this successful and go to semistate, I wouldn’t believe you,” Brewer said. “Before I made varsity, if you told me that I was even going to enjoy wrestling this year, I wouldn’t believe you. It’s been a surreal experience, this first high school varsity season. I didn’t really know what to expect coming into it, but it’s been a blast.”