Wednesday, July 6, 2011

High school wrestler also a thespian

HighBeam Research

Title: Back in the spotlight.(Sports Extra (High School))

Date: February 16, 1996 Publication: Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL) Author: Bush, Joe
Byline: Joe Bush Daily Herald Sports Writer
Alone before a crowd, Lisle's 189-pound state qualifier Brian Davis has no one to lean on.
He's done this over and over, in practice and for real, and still the moment raises his doubts and his pulse.
Finally, it's his turn. He takes a deep breath, steps forward and begins.
"Cry havoc," Davis projects to the back row, "and let slip the dogs of war."
Say what?
Wait, that's not Davis, it's Marc Antony, Roman general and one of Julius Caesar's main men, upon discovering Caesar's body after the dictator's assassination. And he's not on the floor of Assembly Hall, trying to win a Class A state title, he's on stage at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, trying to impress the judges of a Shakespeare monologue contest, the winner of which will compete in New York City.
Davis is just as serious about Act III, Scene I of The Bard's "Tragedy of Julius Caesar," with which he will attempt to advance from next Monday's first round to Tuesday's final round, as he is about the single-leg takedowns and six-minute endurance with which he will attempt to advance this weekend in Champaign.
"It's something that I really love to do," Davis says about...acting. "I'm not passionate about anything else, any other school subjects. I can't see myself doing anything else and being happy."
We've already tapped the similarities between Davis' two loves - theater and wrestling - in the first three paragraphs. Davis says the link between the two is deeper still.
"There's a lot of human drama in wrestling and the state tournament," Davis says. "There's tears and there's joy, and there's the same thing in theater. Theater's just a mirror of life, to tell a story, to bring something out in the audience that they didn't know was there inside themselves. To show them a part of themselves they either refused to see or never knew was there.
"Wrestling's a lot like that. You're forced to make a decision whether or not you want to work hard and improve yourself or just let the chance go by."
In Davis' freshman year he chose to work hard and improve himself in both disciplines.
Since discovering drama that year, Davis has been Lt. Col. Jessup in a drama club version of "A Few Good Men" and last November won the lead role of McMurphy in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." Both are Jack Nicholson parts, and to be sure, Davis played each differently than did Ol' Eyebrows.
What other wrestler will tell you that Kirk Douglas played McMurphy in the stage version which preceded the Academy Award-winning film?
"Just imagining (Douglas), you can see the big difference between the two characters," Davis explains. "Nicholson was more of a rebel. It was harder to see the cause in the movie, whereas in the play it's very evident that McMurphy is vulnerable."
Davis dedicated himself to the mat after he witnessed the utmost in wrestling and drama - four-time Lions state qualifier Dan Hajek's victory in the 119-pound state championship in 1993, his final attempt.
"I made up my mind right there that I had to get down there," Davis says. "(Wrestling's) really helped me develop as a person. To develop self-discipline and a hard work ethic."
It's the sweat that's gotten Davis to the state's main stage in Champaign. The four-year letterwinner has shoulders which each have a history of dislocation, he's lighter and a bit weaker than many of his foes and has no state-meet savvy to call upon this weekend.
"The thing Brian always lacked was strength," says Lions coach John Ruettiger. "He was always kind of a chubby kid. With his work ethic, he's matured into a good wrestler. He's a legitimate 189-pounder. The weights have really helped him."
"I'd say that I'm all-around a decent wrestler," Davis says. "There's no real moves that I'm known for, or stellar at. I use singles when I shoot, and I use a standup when I'm on the bottom. I'm not very good at pinning strong kids, but I can keep guys down pretty well. I'd say it's just stamina and mat experience and hard work."
Hajek, as well as former Lions placewinners Rich Mackins, Steve Winz and Chris Reeder, provided important cameos as well. From them Davis learned what it took to make the big time.
"No one really took me under their wing," Davis says. "Just by seeing how they worked in the practice room. Going Downstate with them my freshman and sophomore years was probably the best thing for me. Just to see them down there wrestling was enough inspiration to get me to wanna be where they were."
At 33-4, Davis is now where they were, in Assembly Hall waiting for the curtain to rise. He's lost to Yorkville's Ryan Lemberg twice, 6-4 and 7-4, split with Class AA state qualifier Jake Vercelli of Joliet Catholic and once to another Class AA kid who's staying home.
First up is Mahomet-Seymour's J.D. Curry, who is fresh with a 9-3 record. The winner faces third-ranked Roxana junior Tom Riggins (39-4).
Davis has beaten two wrestlers in his bracket, Sterling-Newman's Casey Burke and Illiana Christian's Jeff VanderWoude, either of whom he would meet in a semifinal. A third match with Lemberg would be in the final.
"If they meet again, Davis'll beat (Lemberg)," Ruettiger says. "I haven't seen him at his best yet. He's gonna have to wrestle his best this weekend, and I think he has it in him."
If not, the show must go on, and Davis is well prepared. Last summer he tried for, and won, a spot in a Steppenwolf Theatre workshop for high school kids.
He plays guitar and bass guitar in a rock group which occasionally plays at parties, has a 4.9 GPA on Lisle's 5.0 scale, and has auditioned for the drama schools at Boston University and DePaul. Northwestern is also in the mix, as well as Brown.
Wherever Davis goes, he will act, but this weekend concludes his seven-year run as a wrestler.
"I feel good," Davis says. "I'm working harder than I've ever worked before. No matter what happens I know I'm not gonna be disappointed because I'm gonna give it everything I have and see what happens. I like where I am right now."

COPYRIGHT 2009 Paddock Publications
This material is published under license from the publisher through the Gale Group, Farmington Hills, Michigan.  All inquiries regarding rights should be directed to the Gale Group.

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