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32-Year-Old Student Captain Headlines Wrestling Squad

By Thomas Scavetta
Assistant Sports Editor

There are several fresh and talented underclassmen on the LIU Post wrestling team, and then we have Johnny Brush. With a team consisting of mostly freshmen, the 32-year-old former marine sergeant is competing against athletes slightly over half his age.

While serving in the Marine Corps and working as an electrician in Local Union Number Three, Johnny Brush had the opportunity to be a Training NCO, where he was responsible for all aspects of his training. It was then that Brush realized his desire to teach.

Johnny Brush with his wife and son at a recent wrestling match. Photo: Kimberly Toledo
Johnny Brush with his wife and son at a recent wrestling match.
Photo: Kimberly Toledo

“I felt teaching was very rewarding: it was a simple decision to go back to school to become a teacher,” Brush said. His previous work as an electrician also kept him away from his family for long stretches of time. Once Brush started school to earn his teaching degree, he had the chance to enjoy the special opportunities with his children, such as coaching their teams or simply spending a full day with them.

“When I first spoke with Coach Patrovich about wrestling for the LIU Post team, I’m sure he had some reservations. Not only am I twice the age of some of these athletes, but I haven’t been on the mat in almost fifteen years,” Brush said. As the season started, the ex-marine surprised a lot of people, including his teammates and coaches, with how hard he was willing to work as well as his dedication to the team. He believes this is why Coach Patrovich chose him as one of the team captains.

LIU Post students have mixed opinions on having Brush as the captain.

“A 32-year-old man against any college student automatically has ten or more years on his opponent. But, in his defense, he served our country and he decided what he wanted to do before he went to the military. This may bring up controversy because of his age and being an ex-marine, but I don’t see a problem with this as long as other schools do not look down upon it,” said Drew Abrahams, a sophomore Broadcasting major.

“I think it’s a fantastic thing. If someone who is older is going against younger guys, I think that it’s good for both him and the team because I’m not nearly as fit as I was when I was 18, and I’m 21 now. I can’t imagine how out of shape I’d be if I was 32. Good for him, and let him keep pushing onwards,” said Charlie DeRiso, a senior Accounting major.

Brush’s teammate, freshman Physical Education major Joe Calderone, feels like Brush has been a tremendous help along with being an excellent role model. “He shows us what hard work really is, and he’s just an amazing person. It’s exciting to see him wrestle,” Calderone said. The freshman also feels that Brush is a perfect fit for captain of the team because of his great work ethic.

Brush began wrestling when he was 11-years-old. He wrestled through high school at East Meadowbrook, where he was captain during his senior year. Brush attempted to wrestle for the All-Marine team, but was kept out due to his deployment.

“I knew teaching physical education was what I wanted to go back to school for, and Post has a great Health and Physical Education program. The staff here at Post [has] been nothing but supportive and encouraging through my entire time,” Brush said.

As a student teacher, Brush had the opportunity to study under some amazing professors and work with some great students. “Finishing off my last year at Post and being able to wrestle is more than I could ever dream of, especially competing for [the] outstanding coaching staff…Joe Patrovich, Ryan Patrovich and Mike Zimbler,” the ex- marine said.

Despite the age difference, Brush and all of his teammates get along extremely well. He’s already developed some strong bonds and friendships with the other wrestlers. Many of the younger athletes look up to him as a leader. The senior captain explained how he’s had several conversations with them either one-on-one or as a team in general about how to learn and develop more confidence on the mat.

“I think there are a lot of expectations for adult athletes, however; going out there and giving it your all is all we can really do,” Brush said. Adult athletes are expected to set the bar high, and Brush accomplishes that every time on the mat. Although Brush and his teammates have developed excellent chemistry, injuries and obligations with student teaching at Post have kept him from being around his team more, which weighs on him every day.

After he graduates from Post in May, Brush is hoping to find a job as a health and physical education teacher. Brush is currently the head wrestling coach at Island Trees Middle School, and he plans to continue coaching throughout the rest of his career.

“Wrestling is by far the most difficult and challenging sport there is. It takes more dedication and determination than any other sport, and when you go out there and wrestle, you have no one to blame but yourself for a loss, and no one to give credit to but yourself for a win,” said Brush.

Brush served in the Marine Corps from 2000-2009. He and his wife Alison have two children JJ, 9, and Ryan, 5.

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