National Treasures

"I still expect to accomplish my goals. I want to win a national title for WVU."

A quote from Greg Jones, two-time national champion wrestler? No, from his teammate Brandon Lauer.

Is WVU really that big of a power in college wrestling? Could we really have the possibility of two national champs? Yes, we are, and yes we can.

Lauer, an All American in 2003, returns to competition this fall for the 10th-ranked Mountaineers after sitting out the 2003-04 season with his second shoulder injury. Lauer originally injured the shoulder his true freshman year, in a Las Vegas tournament. After surgery and a long rehabilitation, he returned to the top level of competition. At the end of his all-American sophomore campaign, Lauer earned an invitation to the National Wrestling Coaches Association overseas tour. He competed in Greece and Bulgaria, in a pre-Olympic event.

"I tore my labrum in two places," Lauer reported. "It was the exact same injury as before. I knew what to expect this time, but it was hard because any time you have the same surgery twice, it's hard on your body. It has been a challenge to get back to full strength to wrestle again."

Lauer was granted an unusual second medical redshirt year, which gives him the option to complete not only this season but also the 2005-2006 season as well.

The Columbia, Maryland native is facing other challenges this year, too. He's moved up a weight class, from 133 to 141.

"I'll be wrestling new people this year, but my expectations are the same whether at my old weight or this weight. To be a national champion is my ultimate goal."

Lauer came to WVU from River Hill High School for a variety of reasons.

"WVU has a good program in physical and health education, which is what I majored in. They also have a good master's program, which I will take advantage of. It's only three hours from my home, so my family has been able to come to matches. And finally, West Virginia has a great coaching staff, one of the top in the U.S. Coach [Craig] Turnbull, Coach [Zeke] Jones, and Whitey Chlebove, the graduate assistant, who was a two-time All-American in my weight class.

"I have gotten 100% of what I hoped for here at WVU. There are great people here, and I've had great opportunities. I got the most I possibly could have out of my college and athletic experience," Lauer insists.

He will graduate in December, then enter the graduate program in educational leadership. "I'd like to teach high school health," Lauer reports. "My dad is a phys. ed. teacher, so I always saw myself doing that, but after doing my student teaching with former Mountaineer wrestler Ken Maisel at University High School, here in Morgantown, I want to teach health." He also has aspirations to coach eventually.

Lauer took second place in the Navy Classic in November, and the experience of wrestling competitively again after the long injury layoff was a bit odd.

"It was my first tourney back, my first competition in 19 months, in a very tough field, so I was pleased with my performance," he said. "I'm still getting used to it again. It was new and weird. I've been there and done it before, but it had been so long."

The Mountaineer wrestling team has a challenging season, with big tournaments and tough road trips to national powers dotting the schedule. "I'm looking forward to seeing how I do against the competition from the Big Ten and Big 12 at the Midlands Tournament. That will be a real test."

But Lauer points out that everything in the regular season is preparation for the post-season in March. "What you need to work on all year is getting ready for the tournaments, our [Eastern Wrestling] Conference and the NCAAs. It's nice to win matches during the regular season, but because we wrestle at such a high level of competition, it really prepares us for March."

Lauer's determination and focus are evident in his clear blue eyes. "I want to win," he says. "I want that championship - for myself and for WVU."

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