By Harold Raker
The Daily Item
Nathaniel Brown's long road back to the wrestling mat made him realize how much he loved the sport.
The former state champion from Lewisburg, a red-shirt sophomore at Lehigh University, is heading to Des Moines, Iowa, for the NCAA Division I wrestling championships this week.
He should have been in the tournament a year ago. When he is asked about it, Brown does not dwell on what happened.
Bizarre would be one way to describe it.
Agonizing would be another.
It happened in the consolation finals at 174 pounds in the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association championships at Princeton University. He had just won 2-1 over Cornell University's Billy George to clinch a berth in the NCAA tournament.
But an odd thing happened on his way to St. Louis.
Just after Brown lunged forward to avoid a stalling point that would have tied the match in the final seconds, and before he could exit the Resilite, George drove his knee into Brown's chin, knocking him unconscious to the mat.
The action, which got George disqualified, resulted in a concussion for Brown. He was not only forced to miss NCAAs, he was out of action for four months.
With a win over Navy's Matt Miller in the EIWA final earlier this month, Brown punched his second ticket to nationals. This time, he is going.
He will open Thursday as the No. 9 seed at 174 against Hunter Gamble of Gardner-Webb. Brown is 20-5 and Gamble is 22-12.
"It really made me realize how much I love wrestling and enjoy doing it," Brown said this week of his forced hiatus. "I was off the mats for four and a half months and I was itching and dying to get back on the mat and compete.