Brown was one of five Knights to qualify for the Division III state tournament last season before it was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. Begley thinks all nine of his wrestlers have a shot at qualifying for Columbus this season.
“It’s fun. It’s competitive,” said Brown, who wrestles at 145 pounds and drills with 170-pounder Nick Alvarez. “Obviously no one likes to get beat. That’s why we’re so good. You have a lot of guys in here that don’t want to get beat and don’t want to get taken down.”
Legacy Christian is ranked No. 1 in the D-III state rankings and is projected by borofanohio.net to win the state championship over Milan Edison. Pinning down a state championship in its fifth season as a program would be impressive. It also puts a target on the Knights.
The Knights wrestlers come from a variety of school districts like Enon, Jamestown, Lebanon and Springboro. Brown said a few of them came up through the Dayton Christian system, too. The common draw to Legacy, Begley said, is every wrestler there wants to compete in college. Begley went 126-32 at Wright State University and was a three-time All-American in Division II.
“A lot of these kids attracted each other. A lot of these guys, what’s big now is youth wrestling,” Begley said. “They’re on the same Fargo (Junior and Cadet national) teams. They all know each other. … They’re all friends and already talking about rooming in college. It’s a network of friends wrestling at a higher level.”
Brown, ranked No. 1 in the state at 145, is among four juniors on the roster along with Logan Attisano (No. 4 in 120), Cameron Lacure (No. 2 at 132) and Alvarez (No. 3 at 170). Sophomore Boede Campbell (No. 6 at 138) and Ethan Cooper (No. 14 at 152) and freshmen Eli Campbell (No. 5 at 106), Dillon Campbell (No. 1 at 113) and Brayden Brown (No. 9 at 126) round out the roster.
Lacure, Boede Campbell, Brown and Alvarez were state qualifiers last season. In addition to Brown’s title in 2019, Lacure finished third at 120.
Brown had a chance to be a four-time state champion. That’s lofty status, but especially so in a state like Ohio that’s considered one of the best at producing high school talent.
“I used to think about it. Now I’m preparing myself for college,” Brown said. “High school is a big thing to people, but I’m kind of happy where I’m at. Things happen for a reason. I don’t really dwell on the fact I won’t be a four-timer.”
“I 100 percent think he would have been a four-timer,” Begley said. “It’s the craziest thing. I got my mind right to sit and talk to (the state qualifiers) and pick them up (after the tournament was canceled). They were already past it. They went right to working out. They canceled the season and they went right back to work for national tournaments.”
Brown started wrestling when he was about 5-years old after he and his brother, Brayden, roughhoused a little too often.
“Me and my brother always used to fight and wrestle, so my mom threw us into the sport,” Gavin said.
Brown and his teammates can expect another battle this weekend. On Friday, Legacy Christian travels to Massillon Perry for a tri-match with Lakewood St. Edward, winners of 21 of the last 23 Division I state titles and 33 overall. On Saturday, the Knights head to Findlay for five dual matches at the competitive Findlay Duals.
Last week Legacy wrestled nationally-ranked Pennsylvania’s Malvern Prep and won six of nine matches. Two of the losses were by one point.
In addition to that competition Begley said he stresses family involvement and academics (the team has a 3.5 grade-point average).
“He expects a lot out of us. He tries to make practice fun,” said Dillon Campbell, ranked No. 7 in the nation by theopenmat.com. “There aren’t many rooms like this. We make each other better. … Everybody treats you like family. We come here to get better every day. We want to win a state title. That’s our main goal.”