In March 1988, at the age of 6, Brandon Lauer creatively declared his future.
Using crayons on drawing paper, Lauer drew three stick figures - two players and one coach - and then his kindergarten teacher filled in the caption bubble that hovered above the middle character. It read: "I would like to be a coach."
Lauer, now 27, is fulfilling his dream and more.
Not only is he the wrestling coach at his alma mater, River Hill, where he enjoyed one of the state's most prolific wrestling careers, but he's also following directly in his father's footsteps. Earl Lauer coached the River Hill program since its inception in 1996, turning it into a state power before passing the torch to the younger Lauer in 2006.
Brandon Lauer, who went on to become an All-American at West Virginia, said, "the stars were aligned just right" for taking over the program he helped build into a winner.
"It kind of feels like I never left in a sense because this is like my second home," said Lauer, who spent one season as an assistant coach to his father. "I grew up here, I'm a part of it and it's where my roots are. The passion to do well - it kind of fuels you as a coach because you want to see the program that you were part of continue to succeed."
The program's success - six county championships and a state dual-meet championship in 2003 - was largely because of Brandon Lauer's remarkable individual accomplishments on the mat. In three seasons, the 2000 grad compiled a 111-0 record with three state titles - one of only four Maryland public school wrestlers to enjoy undefeated careers.
"Obviously, Brandon had a great run going 111-0, and I was fortunate to get a chance to watch every match. It's incredible both as a coach and a parent to be able to do that. You can't ask for anything more," Earl Lauer said.
Hard work, intensity and dedication were foundations for Brandon Lauer throughout his wrestling career, the necessary intangibles to go with his natural athleticism, aggressiveness and tremendous balance that enabled him to move fluidly from one move to the next.
In the midst of winning 111 straight matches in high school, Lauer said there wasn't much time to enjoy the accomplishments as they came, with the focus always on the next match. Now, he reflects on his achievements with pride and satisfaction.
"Looking back and watching some of the great kids that have come through since I left - watching them win and other times when they fell a little short - it really makes it that much more special what I was able to accomplish," Lauer said. "It doesn't come along very often, and I'm just very appreciative of all the coaches I've had and all the practice partners I worked with."
He says the competitive nature that fueled him as a wrestler is a driving force now that he's a coach, and the fact he's at his alma mater adds to his desire to succeed.
"It's the same," Lauer says. "I don't like to lose to anybody."
The Hawks, 4-0 this season, are working hard on following Lauer's lead with a strong mix of returning talent to go with promising newcomers.
"He drives me a lot," said Cameron Kirby, a 119-pound junior. "I want to get to a state-champion level, and he can help me get there. I feel that since he's been in the same shoes we are in now, he knows exactly what we need to do to win. We all want to try to match his level and make him proud of his team."
The day he married his wife, Kristin, who also teaches and coaches at River Hill, is what Lauer will tell you has been the best day of his life.
There have been plenty of other memorable ones.
The last time he had his hand raised in high school, completing his perfect career, ranks high - as does the night in March 2008 when he and his father were inducted into the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association Wrestling Hall of Fame.
As for the kindergarten art project in which he was asked to draw what he wanted to be when he grew up, that was an easy one.
"All the other kids were drawing astronauts, firemen and other stuff. But athletics was already a big part of my life, and my dad was my hero. That's what he did, so that's what I wanted to do," Lauer said.
Each Friday, The Baltimore Sun will catch up with a former area high school sports figure. In the spotlight today is former River Hill wrestler Brandon Lauer. To suggest former athletes or coaches to be considered for Alumni Report, please e-mail email@example.com .