ON THE SPOT: Jeff’s Browner has gone from JV to among area’s best in less than a year
By MATT CRESSMatthew.Cress@newsandtribune.comhttp://www.news-tribune.net/highschoolsports/local_story_347030232.html
Caleb Browner obviously believes that it’s not where you start as much as it is where you finish. And he doesn’t believe in short cuts.
A 171-pound junior wrestler at Jeffersonville, Browner began last season on the junior varsity. By the end, he had collected an impressive list of hardware, including an individual championship at the prestigious Jeff Classic, and advanced all the way to semistate.
It was without question a meteoric rise that surprised many mat observers. Everyone, it seems, except Red Devil coach Danny Struck, who cited Browner as among the hardest-working kids he’s ever coached.
Soft-spoken and modest, Browner has used the momentum from his sophomore year and fully shed the underdog label. He is ranked in the state’s top 25 in his weight class and has opened this campaign with a 9-1 record.
As part of its continuing “On the Spot” series, The Evening News tracked Browner down at one place he is guaranteed to be found — practice.
QUESTION: Well, you’re one of those fake wrestlers, right? You like pro wrestling? It’s real you know.
CALEB BROWNER: (laughs) “I do watch (pro wrestling). I respect those guys, but I just look at it as entertainment.”
Q: Do you participate in any other sports, or is it just wrestling for you?
BROWNER: “I play football, too. I’m a linebacker.”
Q: Jeff had some struggles on the defensive side of the ball this season because of a lot of inexperienced players. Do you feel that you guys played to your potential as a unit? What about next season?
BROWNER: “You know, we played OK. But really we had the talent to play better. For next year, our defense has a chance to be pretty good. We lost a lot more players on offense than defense. We lost our quarterback (Jeff’s all-time passing leader, Edward Wright-Baker), so we’re going to need a quarterback to really step up for us.”
Q: I’m sure people may disagree, but day-to-day there isn’t a more demanding sport than wrestling. Why do you put yourself through it?
BROWNER: “I don’t really have a clear answer, I just like it. It’s something that is just in you or it isn’t. It’s in me.”
Q: How did you get started with the sport?
BROWNER: “My brother (Jeff freshman Brent Browner) got me into it. It was a plan they had or something. When he was in middle school, he left his money for a wrestling picture, so I had to bring it to him. The coach asked me my name and said I had to stay, and I haven’t left since.”
Q: This is new territory for you, since the secret is definitely out. Did you realize you were an underdog last season? Do you prefer that role?
BROWNER: “I did feel kind of like the underdog. I kind of liked being in that position better. Now I get more worried and put more pressure on myself. I’ll say, ‘I have to win this tournament, or come in second in this tournament.’ Last year, I could just go all out and try different things because I was expected to lose anyway.”
Q: You guys have a pretty solid team here (two other Devils, heavyweight John Clark and 189-pounder Tyler Tatgenhorst, are ranked in the top 10 of their respective classes), so what’s the end goal?
BROWNER: “We think that we are capable of going to state (as a team).”
Q: That’s pretty lofty. It always seems like that’s Floyd Central’s role here in the area. Does the team ever discuss that?
BROWNER: “Sometimes the coaches or the guys will try to throw that out there. This is our year to beat them.”
Q: So what do you do when wrestling is over? You take it easy in the spring?
BROWNER: “No, there’s always some conditioning for one of the sports that needs to be done. When I’m not doing that, I’m at work.”
Q: Where do you work?
BROWNER: “At Derby Dinner Playhouse.”
Q: That’s a really cool job. Do you get a chance to watch a lot of the shows?
BROWNER: “I’m a dishwasher, so I don’t really get a chance to see very much. They give us tickets, but I never use them. I usually give them to my mom so she can go.”
SPORTS PLAYED: Wrestling, football
COACH’S COMMENT: “Caleb is always in a good mood and that makes him a very hard worker. We always joke that if a wrestling match lasted an hour, Caleb would be state champ. It would take being out there for more than an hour to break him of his positive attitude.”
— Jeff coach Danny Struck