May 16, 2003
by Simit Shah
Ian Brewer is the first to admit that the hammer throw doesn’t exactly enjoy household recognition. He finds himself constantly explaining the sport, which sounds more like a dangerous Home Depot trick than a track and field event.
However, the sophomore is educating the Georgia Tech campus with his record-setting performances this spring.
Class will be in session this weekend as the Yellow Jackets host the Georgia Tech Invitational meet, Friday and Saturday at the Griffin Track on the Tech campus. Competition in the hammer throw is scheduled for Saturday at 11 a.m.
The hammer throw utilizes a ball (called the hammer) at the end of a wire. The thrower grasps the end of the wire opposite the hammer, spins and releases the projectile. The speed, height and angle of release determine the distance, which is the metric for competition.
The sport requires a combination of leverage, strength and timing. Brewer’s body, measured at 6-7, 245 pounds, is prototypical of the athletes that compete in the event.
So far this season, the Rhode Island native has broken his own school record with a toss of 204’8″ at the Penn Relays last month. A week earlier, a throw of 197’11” earned him the ACC title at the conference’s outdoor championships. He’s already qualified for the NCAA East Region Championships later this month.
Brewer took up the sport at the behest of a family friend as a freshman in high school. He stood 6-4 at that point and was a natural for the discipline. He captured three Rhode Island state titles at North Kingston High School while emerging as one of the top prep throwers in the nation.
As he contemplated offers from northeastern schools, Brewer was intrigued by the opportunity to come south to Georgia Tech. The warm weather would allow him to train year round, and the coaching staff made a strong impression on him.
“Coach (Grover) Hinsdale is a great guy, and we got along really well from the beginning,” Brewer recalled. “I really respect him, and it seems like he does everything perfect. He’s just a great guy.”
Meanwhile, Hinsdale relished the chance to land an athlete of Brewer’s caliber. Historically, the event hasn’t received much attention at Georgia Tech, but Hinsdale cites the full scholarship funding of track and field three years ago as the catalyst for improvement. That allowed the coaching staff to pursue a top-notch thrower and offer a full scholarship.
“He’s our first major league hammer thrower in the program’s history, the first blue chip high school hammer thrower,” stated Hinsdale, who is in his 24th season at Georgia Tech.
“The hotbed of hammer throwing is in Rhode Island,” he continued. “It’s one of the few states that has the high school hammer, so when schools are looking to fill that spot, they are either going overseas or to Rhode Island.”
When Brewer arrived on campus in the fall of 2001, he was expecting big things. However, the adjustment from a 12-pound hammer to a 16-pound hammer is not an easy one for most college freshman.
“You think it’s not going to affect you that much, but it does,” he explained. “It takes time. Plus, competing in college is totally different. There’s so much more pressure. In high school, you’re just relaxed and having fun, and that helps you throw far.”
Despite those obstacles, Brewer still broke the school record as a freshman with a throw of 186’10”, and he finished fifth at the ACC Championships. He felt there was still plenty of room for improvement, and the turning point came this past winter when Scott Bennett joined the coaching staff, allowing Brewer to receive more individual instruction.
“[The coaching staff] have helped me improve a great deal, especially this year with Coach Bennett,” he said. “Last year I got all the kinks out while learning how to compete in college. This year Coach Bennett has really helped me with technical issues. That’s really helped me a lot.”
“Coach Bennett has done a beautiful job of coaching and developing Ian this year,” added Hinsdale. “I’m elated with his progress. We had always been high on Ian since we recruited out of high school. I would say that he has progressed faster than I anticipated.
“We’ve always believed in him and his abilities. I always felt when Ian grew into his body, meaning maturing physically into his frame, that he would be an outstanding hammer thrower at this level. He’s proven us all right.”
The NCAA East Region Championship begins May 30 in Fairfax, Virginia, and Brewer is hoping a stellar performance can catapult him to the nationals.
“I’m looking forward to the regional,” he said. “I’m ranked sixth, and you have to be in the top five [to advance to nationals]. I’m just looking forward to competing that day and hopefully beating a couple guys ahead of me.”
Brewer says that his ultimate goal is to compete in the Olympics, but his coaches will settle on him conquering the collegiate level first.
“Before his career at Georgia Tech is over, I think Ian could be vying for an NCAA championship,” predicted Hinsdale.