Lorain’s Brandy Crawford knew he needed to get stronger — mentally and physically — after finishing a match away from advancing to the Division I district wrestling tournament last season.
The Titans freshman was pinned twice — once in the first round and again in the consolation semifinals — by Midview senior Noah Gusky, and had to settle for finishing as the 160-pound district alternate.
“That left a bad taste in my mouth,” Crawford said. “It stuck with me. This year I want to make it all the way to state. I’m working as hard as I can.
“I worked hard over the summer. I did a bunch of freestyle and Greco, and I went to California to do some wrestling out there. I want to be a state champ one day.”
Crawford has looked like a state power so far to start his sophomore season. He’s 10-0 with a pair of tournament championships under his belt. In the semifinals of the Findlay Invitational last weekend, he scored an 8-5 decision victory over Dayton Chaminade Julienne’s David Frederick, a returning Division II state qualifier who is ranked No. 8 in the state at 170 pounds.
“That actually gave me a lot of confidence,” Crawford said. “My coach (Dan Findley) didn’t tell me before the match that the kid went to state. He just said, ‘Go out there and wrestle.’ After the match he told me and that just boosted my confidence. I was like, ‘Man, I see how good I am now that I’ve been putting in the work. I can beat people who’ve been to state and seen what it’s like in that state tournament atmosphere.’”
The dominating performance isn’t too unexpected, as Crawford began wrestling at 5 years old, following in the footsteps of his father, also named Brandy Crawford, who starred for Southview High.
“I liked it because I was a physical kid and I love sports that have physical contact in them, so I loved it right off the bat,” Crawford said.
He’s added power to his physicality. Crawford uses a blast double-leg takedown — “Nobody this season has been able to stop it … it’s my go-to move,” he said — to rack up points, put himself in good position on the mat and humble his opponents.
“He definitely works to hit muscle moves, anything he can to knock you off your balance, that’s what he’s going for,” Findley said. “I would rather be out-techniqued than outmuscled. I never liked when someone came in and overpowered me … that just doesn’t sit well.”
Getting stronger was an ongoing theme for Crawford last season. After qualifying to the middle school state tournament twice — finishing a match from placing as an eighth-grader — he was thrust into the middle of the Titans varsity lineup.
“There was little stuff he was missing on, just making the transition from junior high,” Findley said. “You think you’re going to come into high school and just beat up on everybody and it’s a rude awakening when you start wrestling guys that have their man strength already.”
Wrestling at 152 pounds for most of his freshman season, he was constantly facing juniors and seniors during competition. He beat most of them because he was skilled and because of the hard work he was putting in during practice with another senior.
“It was kind of easy because I had a good wrestling partner last year in (district placer) Shawn Petty,” Crawford said. “He helped me learn a lot and pushed me, and that’s what got me on my feet and got me to where I am today, too.”
Crawford has become the teacher in the Titans’ wrestling room.
“He’s talking at practice, he’s letting everybody know,” Findley said. “He’ll wrestle somebody and say, ‘Hey, this is what I’m going to do, see if you can stop it.’ Most of the time they don’t stop it.”
The opponents can’t stop him, either. He has racked up six pins and a pair of major decisions en route to his two tournament titles.
During the Findlay win, he was never taken to the mat, giving up only escape points and one reversal to Frederick.
“He’s exceeding everyone’s expectations for this early in the year,” Findley said. “We thought he was going to place in every tournament and he’s just going out and beating everybody.”