Oh so Dapper -- preparing for this weekend's Classic
There may not be two wrestlers in the Adams-Hanover area with a more dapper approach to life than Hanover's Ian Brown and Bermudian Springs' Tristan Sponseller.
Some athletes seem insincere or practiced when interviewed, but Brown and Sponseller are among the area's most authentic and charming personalities. Both are heralded by coaches and teachers for committed work ethics and nearly flawless manners.
It's fitting then that they have been invited to the Dapper Dan Classic in Pittsburgh. Last weekend, the wrestlers found out they were invited to the tournament, which pits Pennsylvania's best wrestlers against a United States All-Star team.
Busy rehearsing for his part in the school play, Brown was unable to speak the night of our story, but caught up with us later.
Throughout the season, Hanover wrestling coach Kurt Brenner has called Brown the best wrestler in the country. Intermat wrestling hasn't seen it that way, leaving him off the national rankings entirely at the 132-pound weight class.
Brown is looking forward to his match against No. 3 ranked Northern Iowa recruit Josh Alber and hopes he can live up to the hype his coach built all season.
"It's not like an overconfidence thing," Brown said. "I just know if I wrestle the way I do in the wrestling room and don't worry about anything outside my match, I can wrestle with anyone in the country. This is the opportunity to prove that."
Brown already got to meet many of the state's best wrestlers at the PIAA Championships last weekend, but said the Dapper Dan will give him a chance to mingle with even more of his future colleagues.
"It's good to interact with kids who will be in the top D-I programs. It's foreshadowing what is to come in the next couple of years," the future Lehigh University undergrad said.
Brown has been hard at work, not just this week, but over the course of several weeks jumping from wrestling practice to preparing for the role of Mareb in the school play, "Aida."
He's happy to have an extra reason to stay on his feet, he said, as he works to make weight one more time. Brenner hinted that Brown ate more than usual after earning his PIAA Class AA championship victory, but didn't reveal the meal.
"Sunday night I ordered myself one of those $10 boxes from Pizza Hut," Brown said, adding that it contained a medium cheese pizza, bread sticks and cinnamon sticks. "By the time I found out about my selection, there was no turning back."
One-upping his coach?
Brown has enjoyed working with such an accomplished wrestling coach as Brenner. The West Virginia University graduate was a three-time PIAA Class AA champion in high school. However, if Brown is able to beat Alber on Sunday, he'll have one piece on his resume that escaped his coach, a Dapper Dan victory.
Brenner, who went to Freedom High School, near Pittsburgh, lost to Blake Mauerer, an eventual Ohio State University grappler, in ride outs in 2004.
"It was the only time I ever lost to that kid in high school or college," Brenner said.
In the event that Brown wins, the protege said he didn't plan on giving his mentor too much flack.
"It wasn't a deciding factor in his career, and I'm sure it won't be for mine," Brown said. "On the other hand, it's always fun to have something to use when you're joking around with your coach."
Brown vs. Sponseller?
With more than 60 pounds the difference between the latest Adams-Hanover PIAA gold-medalists there is no way to make a match between them fair -- at least not without amputating one of Sponseller's limbs or giving Brown some serious performance enhancement.
But once upon a time, the two used to wrestle somewhat regularly, Sponseller said.
"Actually all the time," he said. "Up until third grade or so, we probably wrestled 10 times. He beat me most of the time too."
Sponseller said that he thinks he got the upper hand on Brown the last few times before growing out of his weight class.
"I gained 15 pounds a year and he stayed small," Sponseller said with a laugh. "I guess I learned to love food a little more."
Brown and Sponseller have plenty to be proud of even without Pennsylvania's most famous wrestling showcase this weekend, but making the Dapper Dan is icing on the cake.
Each is the second wrestler from their respective schools to make the tournament. Before this year, the Adams-Hanover Area has had six invitees. They are as follows: Jordan Conaway, New Oxford (2011); Brian Polashunk, Spring Grove (2006); Gary Mayfield, Hanover (2004); Dana Gingrich, Delone Catholic (2003); Ken Haines, Gettysburg (1995); Trevor Byers, Bermudian Springs (1986).