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Lambrecht's agony unthinkable

Oklahoma wrestler from Brandon comes within 15 seconds of winning NCAA title.

By MIKE READLING, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 14, 2002

As far as dreams go, this one was a big one. The kind you don't even let yourself think about because it seems so far-fetched.

Winning the lottery? Sure, that could happen, just head to the store and buy a ticket. It'll cost you a buck.

An athlete from Florida, not to mention Hillsborough County, winning an NCAA national wrestling championship? You might as well think about walking to the moon. It's just one of those things that doesn't happen.

But there was Josh Lambrecht, the former Brandon wrestler in an Oklahoma singlet, in the final period of the final match at the NCAA championships in Albany, N.Y.

Even more amazing -- the 184-pounder was leading by 12 points with 15 seconds to go. The situation called for desperate measures by Rob Rohn, Lambrecht's opponent from Lehigh. "I ended up turning him a couple of times in the third period and I was winning 14-2," Lambrecht said. "I was only three points from winning by technical fall when he did his move. He ended up catching me on my back and got the pin. I was just crushed."

Say that again, real slow. Got ... the ... pin.

It was the only way Rohn, ranked eighth in the country, could have won. It was the only way Lambrecht was going home disappointed.

"I was blowing him out and I made a mistake," Lambrecht said. "When it was over I was just hurting. My pride was hurt.

"Going into the third period my mind-set was like it should never be in the match. In my mind, I thought I had won. I had a 10-point lead going into the third period and it was almost impossible for him to score 10 points when I was wrestling as good as I had been.

"I just didn't see a way he could beat me. I guess you could say I relaxed."

The official name of the move Rohn used to win the national title -- he also used it to win his quarterfinal and semifinal matches -- is the cement mixer.

It's a maneuver from the neutral position in which Rohn overhooked Lambrecht's head (his right arm was near Lambrecht's neck) and underhooked his arm (his left arm was near Lambrecht's left arm pit) and then threw him to the mat in kind of a twisting motion.

"It's sort of a rare move," Lambrecht said. "He's a master of that move, though. He used it on three other guys in the tournament."

It relegated a disappointed Lambrecht to second place, but went a long way toward showing the nation that wrestlers from Florida are set to make their mark on the national scene. Sooners teammate and former Countryside wrestler Jared Frayer also finished second in the tournament while Miami's Mark Fee was named an All-American at Appalachian State this year.

"I think the state is gaining the reputation now," Lambrecht said. "We're earning our respect now. I think people are starting to see that we're not only football and baseball, we can wrestle, too."

Lambrecht, Frayer and Fee are the beginning of what they hope is a trend that will allow wrestlers coming out of high school to be able to choose from more than just low- to mid-range colleges, something Lambrecht knows all about.

As a senior at Brandon, he went 35-0 with a state record 28 pins, won the 171-pound state championship, led the Eagles to the team championship and was named the state wrestler of the year in his classification. But the only big college that took notice was Tennessee-Chattanooga, the place he spent his first two years.

"It was pretty much the only choice I had," he said of UT-Chattanooga, a Division II school with four total national championships, none in wrestling. "I think I had a lot of people who doubted my ability."

If any doubts remain, they should disappear when Lambrecht begins his senior season next year as the No. 1-ranked wrestler in the nation in his classification.

There are many reasons for Lambrecht to still own that ranking at the end of the season, but one sticks out in his mind more than the rest -- to become the first person who wrestled for legendary Brandon coach Russ Cozart to win a collegiate national title.

"I have all the respect in the world for him," Lambrecht said. "I would love to do that for him. I think he deserves it. That'll be my goal."

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