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WHO’S NEXT? USAW STAR OF THE FUTURE Black makes big impact

By Craig Sesker Brooks Black already is one of the best young heavyweight prospects in the country. He’s made a big splash during a superb high-school career at perennial powerhouse Blair Academy. And he’s been a force at the national level while making his

mark in USA Wrestling events. But the 6-foot-3 Black has a huge upside that the coaches at

the University of Illinois can’t wait to see. Black, one of the nation’s top five overall recruits, chose the Fighting Illini over Ohio State, Iowa, Cornell and Oklahoma. Illinois assistant coach Mark Perry, a former Blair standout

who won two NCAA titles at Iowa, is looking forward to bringing Black to Champaign. “It’s very rare to find a heavyweight with the attitude, mentality

and work ethic that Brooks has,” Perry said. “He has a work ethic that is pretty impressive and very similar to what (two-time NCAA champion and 2008 Olympian) Steve Mocco had coming out of Blair. Brooks is definitely going to be a force in years to come. He’s a good-sized heavyweight, who is tall at 6-3, and he can still add a lot of strength. We believe he will be able to com- pete with best guys in country after his redshirt season. He is a guy who can wear people down. He has high expectations and we have high expectations for him.” Black won his third title at the prestigious Ironman event in

Ohio earlier in his senior season. He pinned his way to the finals before scoring a 5-1 win over Michael Johnson of Wyoming Seminary in the finals. “It was huge to win that event again,” Black said. “I’ve been working really hard to completely dominate my weight class. I’ve been working hard every day to keep improving.” Black has continued to thrive during his senior season at Blair Academy, which has undergone a change with long-time head coach Jeff Buxton departing the school after last season. “The team hasn’t skipped a beat,” Black said. “It was tough

seeing Coach Buxton go, but everybody on our team has come together. We have all worked hard to get better, and that showed when we won the Ironman tournament.” Black, a Pennsylvania native, has thrived during his time at

Blair Academy. He has competed in tournaments all over the U.S. during his prep career. “It’s been awesome,” he said. “I’ve had so many great oppor-

tunities and experiences that I wouldn’t have had somewhere else. My grade-point average has come up since my freshman year, and now I have the best GPA I’ve had at Blair. I’m getting a great education here.” Black has won Cadet Nationals and FILA Cadet Nationals

titles while competing in USA Wrestling events. “I’ve been going to USA Wrestling events since I was 9 years

old, and it’s definitely helped me a lot,” he said. “I’ve been com- peting since I was a Novice all the way up to the Junior level. It’s been great to have the opportunity to wrestle the best guys in the country. It’s where the best competition is at. It’s really helped me improve and progress.” Black battled Michigan’s Adam Coon this past summer at the

Junior Nationals in Fargo, N.D. Coon pulled out a close decision en route to winning the heavyweight title. Black came back to

30 USA Wrestler

Blair Academy heavyweight Brooks Black plans to wrestle collegiately for Illinois. Tony Rotundo photo.

place third. “You can’t let it come down to the coin flip, but that’s what happened,” Black said. “He won the coin flips, and got the leg both times and was able to score. I was in on some scoring opportunities and didn’t get to my finishes. I’ve got to score and can’t wait around. You’ve got to get a takedown. I’ve learned from that match and I’m working hard on those areas.” Black is looking forward to taking the next steps in his wrestling career at Illinois. “I really fell in love with the campus there, and I really con-

nected with the team and the coaches,” Black said. “I really con- nected with Mark Perry. He’s a Blair guy, and I really like him and I loved what he had to say along with Coach (Jim) Heffernan. They definitely have some great young wrestlers in their program and I’m looking forward to being a part of it.”

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