DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — Every now and then, Brooks Law will reach out for a door handle and come up empty-handed.
Despite being legally blind in his left eye since birth, the Foxcroft Academy senior has enjoyed one of the most successful careers in the significant history of the school’s wrestling program.
Law was a two-time individual state champion who helped the Ponies capture Class C state titles in both 2012 and 2013, and he finished second in the 138-pound class at last winter’s Class B state meet.
He hopes to cap off that career with a third individual state championship, and another team crown, a quest that begins in earnest with the Eastern Maine Class B championship meet on Saturday at Medomak Valley High School in Waldoboro.
“Brooks doesn’t use [lack of eyesight] as an excuse,” said Foxcroft wrestling coach Luis Ayala of his two-year captain. “He doesn’t use it as an excuse not to do well, an excuse not to be at his best, or an excuse not to work hard. Other kids may complain about being injured or being sick, but Brooks has dealt with it his whole life, and unless you really know him, he won’t bring it up. He just lives with it.”
Despite some challenges, one place Law feels most at home is on the mat.
“Every once in a while, with really anything I do, my depth perception will give out,” said Law, who is competing this winter in the 152-pound weight class. “You need two good-seeing eyes for depth perception, especially when it’s darker like for night driving or wrestling under a spotlight, when I’ll be trying to grab a kid’s arm and I’ll keep missing it.
“My reaction time is a little slower because of it, but I’ve definitely worked around it,” he said.
Any vision problems Law has while wrestling usually come in the upright position. Once he and his opponent are on the mat, the competition is more about instinct than vision.
“When he’s standing up, he always has his head and face to the side so he can see his opponent, but once he’s on top of his guy, it’s a feel thing,” said Ayala. “He feels where things are, and he’s learned from being in those situations exactly what he’s supposed to do and where everything’s supposed to be.
“He’s done it so much I think he could wrestle with his eyes closed,” he said.
But Law may face a more significant vision challenge in the other sport he plays for the Ponies — baseball.
Primarily an outfielder his first two years, Law is now entrenched as Foxcroft’s starting catcher and is expected to be part of the team’s pitching staff this spring.
“With everything he brings to the table — his leadership, his defense behind the plate and his approach at the plate — if I had to start a team this year, he’s the first guy in our league I’d take,” said Foxcroft baseball coach Mark Chevalier. “People may not realize how valuable he is and how many ways he helps the team, but it all starts with his defense behind the plate, because you can’t be good in a league like ours without a top-flight catcher.
“He’s also improving offensively and should be a real force in our league this year, and intangibly he’s just an incredible kid. Part of it may come from what he’s had to overcome his whole life, but he just appreciates being out there. He’s got a certain energy that other players feed off,” he added.
Law’s status as one of the better defensive catchers in Eastern Maine Class B is not without its challenging moments.
“Back there catching a ball coming in as fast as it does, just trying to pick it up sometimes can be pretty difficult,” said Law, who moved with his family to Maine from his native Georgia as a fourth-grader. “Sometimes I’ll be catching, and a pitch comes that looks like it’s going to be in the dirt, so I’ll drop to block it, and it will hit me in the forearm.
“One time I dropped to block one I thought was going to be in the dirt, and it hit me squarely in the chest protector, and the ump called it a strike,” said Law. “It was pretty funny.”
Compensating for his blind eye has helped Law develop textbook techniques for handling pitches in the dirt.
“Knowing in my mind that the ball could be farther outside than I actually think it is, I know I have to get my whole body out there just in case,” said Law. “It definitely makes me more of a cautious catcher, and it definitely helps because that’s a good habit for anybody back there.”
Law also bats right-handed, meaning his blind eye is his front eye when he’s at the plate.
“Picking up the pitches, especially the outside pitches where my depth perception comes in more, those have always been my weak pitches,” he said. “ It does get frustrating, especially when I go down looking.”
Law wears glasses when he plays baseball because “my good eye over the years is progressively getting worse, and they said eventually I’ll have to get Lasik surgery on my good eye.”
No glasses are required on the mat, where Law already has had a memorable senior season.
Earlier this winter he became Foxcroft’s career leader in wrestling victories, and he has 174 heading into Saturday’s regional.
He achieved that milestone by eclipsing the 168 career wins established in 2013 by older brother Forrest Law, who is a U.S. Army Airborne Ranger. He witnessed his record being surpassed the day before he left Maine to return to his home base at Savannah, Georgia.
“Having Forrest in the same house for three of my four years of high school I was able to look up to him and see how he handled things and see him break the school record and see how he handled that and how he took that with pride,” said Brooks Law.
“It was such a great honor for him, so for me to be able to break his record was just outstanding. To have him there was more than I could ask for, really, and to have him there on the last day he was here and be able to see me do things he’s taught me was really cool,” he said.
Law’s road to an individual regional title this weekend likely will have to go through Ellsworth High School 152-pound standout Connor Petros, who edged him in overtime earlier this season.
“He’s kept his matches with Connor close, but now he’s got to figure out how to beat him,” said Ayala. “It’s a matter of not giving up those early takedowns, it’s a matter of controlling, it’s a matter of escaping and getting those extra points and not giving up those points to Connor.
“Brooks looks forward to the challenge,” he said.