As a youngster, Bryan McDermott played on travel teams in baseball, basketball and lacrosse. So his father, Patrick, never expected Bryan to wrestle when he entered Mount St. Joseph four years ago.
"One day, he comes home and says, 'Dad, I just want to wrestle,'" said the elder McDermott.
"I'll take credit for that," said Gaels athletic director Tony Brockmeyer, who spotted "this tough kid" [Bryan] in a freshman physical-education wrestling class.
Three years later, McDermott's wrestling skill has earned him a partial scholarship to Duquesne University.
"Bryan's a special, all-around individual -- a great person, very confident wrestler but a humble winner," said coach Bryan Murphy. "But as good as he's become, he still hasn't reached his potential."
McDermott's initial goal was "just to make the varsity team." But he's 35-0 (17 pins) this season (with 96 career wins) and is ranked No. 1 in Maryland at 135 pounds. And he leads the team from one of the Baltimore area's proudest wrestling institutions.
McDermott's could reach 100 career victories with four wins for the title at next weekend's Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association Tournament at St. Joe.
"This program carried such prestige, you just wanted to get on the team and earn the respect from your teammates," said McDermott, 17, an Ellicott City resident. "Really, it's just been taking every match one at a time."
McDermott, a state runner-up and fifth-place finisher at National Preps last season, has made a habit of beating guys who have far greater wrestling experience.
He has two victories each over DeMatha's No. 2-ranked Kevin Gabrielson and Archbishop Curley's fifth-ranked Tom Boettcher; those two have a combined seven junior-league state titles.
Last month, McDermott won four bouts to become only the fourth Gaels' wrestler ever to win the Trinity PowerAde Invitational in Pittsburgh. Three of those victories came against opponents ranked in Pennsylvania's top five.
McDermott credits relentless practices with former second-team All-Metro teammate Kyle Chiaverini, now at Wagner College, with helping grind him into shape. Former Gaels coach Paul Triplett and Murphy have prepared him mentally and physically, said McDermott.
"Very few schools demand the work ethic that Triplett did, and Coach Murphy has been successful in maintaining that," McDermott said. "Without his help, I wouldn't be going to Duquesne. He was a state champ up in Pennsylvania, so he had the connections."
As a sophomore wrestling under Triplett, who was in his 11th and final season, McDermott earned a starting spot at 130 pounds.
"Bryan was fascinated with the sport, and he was like a sponge,," Triplett said. "You'd teach him something, he'd take it in, go out and try it in a match. A lot of times he'd walk out on the mat and get his head handed to him, but it never deterred him."
Show McDermott a move, added Murphy, and he's got it down pat.
"Once, Bryan saw a headlock in a match before his," Murphy said. "Then he did it with picture-perfect technique," he recalled. "Paul said to me, 'Did you teach him that?' I said, 'No. I thought you did.'"
McDermott won titles at the Annapolis and Curley tournaments this season. And in a match against Mercersburg (N.J.) Academy, he beat post-graduate Bobby Monday, a former two-time Maryland state champ at Montgomery County's Sherwood.
"Bryan keeps his hips low, so he goes under your defenses," said Bruce Gabrielson, a college All-American with 31 years of coaching experience at three colleges and three high schools. "That's one of the main reasons he's so successful."
Off the mat, McDermott, who scored 1,270 on his SAT, is a solid student in courses that include honors calculus and physics.
"I try to keep situations in perspective," McDermott said. "I think that carries onto the mat in the confidence I show."
Pub Date: 2/07/99