Inspiration, hard work boost Jenson Unbeaten wrestler leads Randallstown

January 22, 1991|By Lem Satterfield

Mike Jenson Jr. is never far away from the Bible.

When the Randallstown wrestler was defeating Dundalk's Wes Souders for the 160-pound Baltimore county title last year, his Bible was just a glance away.

"I put it on the edge of the mat in an equipment bag," said Jenson. "I looked over every once in a while for encouragement."

Jenson finished third in the Class 3A-4A state tournament, capping a 26-1-1 sophomore season.

The only blemishes on his record were a tie against Souders -- which he avenged in the county final -- and an 8-5 decision loss in the state semifinals to Annapolis' Kevin Lynch, the eventual 160-pound state champion.

Jenson, 16, still keeps his Bible close by this season, and so far he's been unstoppable.

The Maryland State Wrestling Association's No. 2-ranked 171-pounder, Jenson, who weighs 165, has an 16-0 record and has pinned 11 of his opponents, 10 of them in the first period.

Of his remaining victories, two came by technical fall, two by major decision and one by forfeit.

Saturday, Jenson won the Overlea tournament for the second straight season.

Jenson was often at a size disadvantage last fall as the starting nose guard for the Rams' state Class 4A football champions. His quickness and strength -- he bench presses 230 pounds -- usually serve as an equalizer.

"He is his own motivation. He showed up at wrestling practice with sore ribs and sore hands from football," said first-year coach Jeff Langrehr, "I offered him the option of waiting a week before practicing. His answer was, 'Absolutely not.' "

Jenson began wrestling as a 9-year-old and was twice a junior league state champion under Guy Pritzger, now the coach of Owings Mills High. He defeated Bullis' Joe Horwat -- the No. 3-ranked 171-pounder -- three times as a junior leaguer.

Jenson, a "B" student at Randallstown, attributes his success to his spiritual beliefs, his conditioning and his close family ties -- especially with Mike Jenson Sr., his father. Those factors, Jenson said, have helped him keep his goals in perspective.

"We have a special relationship. I sometimes remind him what it was like for me when I was young," said Mike Jenson Sr., 41 and the father of six children. Mike Jr. is the third youngest. "I came up the rough way. I grew up in Southwest Baltimore around shootings and stabbings. I never tried sports in high school, and I was married before I graduated."

A recent tragedy gave the younger Jenson another reminder. A distant cousin was killed last month while attempting to rob a grocery store. .

The elder Jenson said it sometimes takes such an incident to appreciate how proud he is that his son has his priorities in order.

"Mike's a good kid," said his father, a lieutenant with the Baltimore Fire Department. "I always tell him so, but I doubt he'll ever really know how much I appreciate his staying out of trouble."

On the mat, however, Jenson is trouble for his opponents.

"Really, there's no one in the wrestling room who can push him. I only weigh 140 pounds, and I'm not about to risk my life against him," joked Langrehr. "Mike's like a second coach -- he makes everyone around him better. He came off the mat after pinning four guys to win the Loch Raven tournament earlier this year, and he was still talking about improving."

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