Hempfield grad Bewak competes at NCAA Division III wrestling championships
Watching a 125-pound wrestler work up the leverage to drive into an opponent, lift him up and take him down always has been something of an elementary lesson in physics.
Unless you're Hempfield graduate Paul Bewak. His lessons in physics involve quantum mechanics and electromagnetic theory.
Bewak is one of top wrestlers in the nation for NCAA Division III. He might be the only one who intends on earning a Ph.D in physics and strives to be a college professor.
“But once I got to physics in 11th grade, just something about it made it seem like the coolest thing to me,” Bewak said by phone as he traveled home from the NCAA Division III championships in Iowa last month. “I find it amazing how we can describe how the universe works, and the more I study it the more amazing it becomes to me.”
Bewak carries a 3.19 cumulative GPA in a challenging major at one of the more challenging universities in the country, Johns Hopkins. Still only a sophomore, he also is showing enough potential that he already is one of the school's most accomplished wrestlers.
Bewak's trip to the NCAA Division III national championships was his second in as many years on the Blue Jays team.
His seventh-place finish last season was the best ever for a Johns Hopkins wrestler, and this season he held a No. 1 national ranking — also a first for the school.
“I believe there's no doubt in my mind that Paul Bewak will be able to get to (the national) finals and be a three-time All-American, and the goal for him is to be a national champion,” Johns Hopkins coach Keith Norris said. “So he would definitely go down in the record books as being one of Hopkins' greatest wrestlers.
“We've still got two more years, and we'll take it day by day. Right now, the 2013 season is over, and we'll focus on the 2014 season to get back to the NCAA tournament and prepare to be an all-American again.”
The top eight in the national tournament earn All-American status. Bewak achieved that as a freshman but lost his first two matches at the 125-pound double-elimination event in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, this season.
Bewak completed his season with a school-record 34 victories and only six losses, giving him 64 career wins. But be sure Bewak will use the bitter taste in his mouth from the performance at the NCAA nationals to motivate him as he trains this summer and beyond.
“I absolutely will,” Bewak said. “Losing gives you a terrible feeling, and it's that feeling that will push me through the times when I want to rest or take it easy. I want to win NCAAs the next two years and really perfect my technique.”
Bewak's interest in physics has helped over the years, he says, when it comes to torque and friction and how it relates to, say, grip strength or which way to move your opponent.
But now that he's almost two full years into coursework for a Johns Hopkins physics degree, the application to his chosen sport since he was a youngster has long since passed into something much more advanced.
“He is very smart — it's crazy listening to him and his teammates talk about science and other topics,” Norris said. “Wrestling is like a chess match, and I think he is able to break things down. I believe he would be a great coach.”
Being a wrestling coach is the other side of Bewak's career aspirations. While a Ph.D will assist in becoming a physics professor, Bewak's also building quite the wrestling résumé.
Bewak has won two Centennial Conference titles, and he placed third at this season's NCAA Division III East Regional championships.
“He's kind of a perfectionist,” Norris said. “Everyday he's on, he's going 100 percent. He's real goal-oriented with a drive and a will to compete like no other.”
You don't need to have a Ph.D in physics to see that.
Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.