Size is overrated. Some of the greatest athletes to play sports were told that they couldn’t or wouldn’t succeed because they weren’t the ideal size.
The late Sam Mills stood only 5 feet, 9 inches tall and was told he was too short to play middle linebacker. He was cut his rookie season, in 1981, by the Cleveland Browns and eventually caught on with the USFL Philadelphia Stars in 1983, where he proved the doubters wrong before the league disbanded.
In his three years with the team, he totaled nine interceptions, 14 sacks, 10 fumble recoveries and one touchdown. That was enough for the New Orleans Saints to give the “undersized” linebacker a look in 1986, and they wouldn’t regret it.
The five-time Pro-Bowler played nine seasons with the Saints and three with the Carolina Panthers, where he started 173 games out of 181. He finished his NFL career with 1,319 tackles, 20.5 sacks, 11 interceptions and four touchdowns.
Doug Flutie — a great collegiate player — was also bypassed because of his size. He spearheaded Boston College in one of the most memorable comebacks in football history, defeating the Miami Hurricanes 45-41 in 1984 on a Hail Mary pass.
No other Eagle quarterback has come close to his collegiate production in the past two decades, but Flutie was never really considered a NFL quarterback. He bounced around from league to league before becoming a household name in the USFL.
After a 10-year exile in the CFL, Flutie returned to the NFL in 1998, when he signed with the Buffalo Bills and led them to two winning seasons. Despite his success, Flutie was supplanted in his final regular-season by Rob Johnson, who was considered by team officials to be a “pro-typical quarterback.”
'At age 43, Flutie serves as the backup quarterback to Tom Brady for the defending Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots.
Spud Webb is recognized as the smallest player (5 feet, 7 inches) to ever win the NBA slam-dunk contest. Webb mesmerized fans with his incredible 42-inch vertical jump when he won the 1986 slam-dunk contest over a heralded dunk aficionado, the human-highlight-reel Dominque Wilkins.
There’s an intangible that cannot be measured, and that is heart. Great athletes are a dime a dozen, but the coveted athletes are the ones who not only have ability but have the internal drive to compete at any cost.
Indian River High School’s Bryan Lynch falls into this category of athlete.
After a three-year layoff and in his senior year, Lynch returned to wrestling to compete in the heavyweight division. Lynch will never be the biggest man in his division and he knows that – but it’s his attitude that makes him larger than the competition.
Soaking wet, he weighs in at 210 pounds, which means he’ll face competition 40, 50 even 60 pounds heavier than himself. But he already showed everyone at Stephen Decatur’s “War on the Shore” wrestling tournament that size won’t matter in any of his matches this year.
He pinned three of his four opponents — his first in a mere 13 seconds, when he placed fifth out of 21 heavyweights. Lynch’s wrestling style is similar to a pit bull’s attack — relentless and aggressive.
He used his superior quickness and aggressiveness to knock the larger behemoths on their heels and once he sunk his hooks in, it was over or a lost cause.
“I have to use my aggressiveness and my speed to compete in this weight class,” said Lynch. “There aren’t any big boys that are faster than me. I just can’t let them use their weight against me.”
“Bryan will be able to out-quick the other kids in his division,” said Head Wrestling Coach Jeff Windish. “Heavyweights don’t wrestle his high-tempo style of wrestling.”
A three-year hiatus and only five practices presents Lynch with the challenge of getting up to speed on the necessary techniques to wrestle at the level he expects. But his coaches aren’t worried about his progress because he’s so determined
“The entire coaching staff was impressed with his determination and competitiveness,” said Windish. “He doesn’t like to lose, so he’ll find a way to win.”
Lynch’s head football coach, Jim Bunting, agreed 100 percent.
“Bryan is a goal-setter. Last year he was determined to lose weight to gain speed and he did that,” said Bunting. “He’s self-driven to do his best and I guarantee he’ll give it everything on the mat.”
Last year, Lynch weighed 240 pounds and has since shed 30. But he’s not satisfied with his results. He wants to be in better shape for baseball, and wrestling was the best way to accomplish this goal.
“I came back because I wanted to get in better shape, but I knew I could compete” explained Lynch. “I’ve been the backup catcher behind D.J. (Clark), who’s a great catcher. So I want to slim down and get faster to possibly play catcher in the spring, depending if my shoulder holds up.”
In addition to his personal drive, aggressiveness and physical ability, Lynch can rely on his teammates for tips, as well as battles in practice.
“Perry (Townsend) wrestles bigger guys and he’s shown me some moves I can use against my opponents,” said Lynch. “Andy (Bokinsky) has been wrestling since he was 50 inches tall. He knows what to do in every situation. He helped me back when we were in the Little Indians.”
It also helps that Lynch was an accomplished defensive football player, which earned him second-team all-conference honors this past season. And wrestling and football share similar principles.
“Wrestling is just like football,” explained Lynch. “A double-leg is like a tackle. You drive and put them on the mat.”
In addition to being a great athlete, Lynch is also a great role model for his younger teammates. Windish gave him the option to compete and wrestle at a lower weight class but Lynch took the high road.
“Bryan wants to wrestle at heavyweight,” said Windish. “He knows he can do well there.”
“Phillip (Townsend) is wrestling up a weight class at 215 to help the team, and that’s what I wanted to do too,” said Lynch. “I just want to help the team.”