Wrestling has been a matter of survival for Arundel heavyweight Pat Beach.
Ranked No. 5 by the Maryland State Wrestling Association, Beach recently took a giant step toward the top ranking when he defeated No. 1-rated Monte Spencer of Oakland Mills, 9-6.
Spencer already had knocked off No. 2 John Scheer of Chopticon and No. 4 Don Marco of Old Mill this season. Overlea's John Swigart is No. 3 in the MSWA rankings, which will be updated early next month.
"I didn't start wrestling until my sophomore year," said Beach, a 230-pound senior. "I was on the junior varsity for two years behind Tim Kerns and he kicked my butt every day in practice. That definitely helped me get tougher and accelerated my progress."
This winter, Beach is 18-0. Still, he knows the road gets tougher as he forges toward an Anne Arundel County championship. For one, Old Mill's Marco still lies ahead.
"Marco's tough," said Beach, who last met the Patriots' heavyweight at the JV level two years ago. As Beach recalled, "He kicked my butt."
Beach's advancement since then hasn't been a surprise, nor has it come easy, he says. "I'm not surprised by my success," he said. "I've worked for it."
Beach's brother, Tim, is not surprised either. He's a plebe at the Naval Academy and has taken up wrestling.
"Tim's two years older and used to kick my butt all the time," said Beach. "Then I began wrestling and I'd take him out in the yard and tie him up in a ball to frustrate him."
It was just a matter of survival.
* Saturday's sixth annual Gilman Duals (10 a.m.) provide plenty of competition for the area's No. 3, No. 6 and No. 10 wrestling teams, Owings Mills, Gilman and Aberdeen. Defending champ St. Mark's (Del.), 1989 champion Blair Academy (N.J.), 1990 state champion Woodberry Forest (Va.), defending national champion DeMatha and Westminster are in the eight-team field.
* No. 2 Mount St. Joseph has not had its top lineup healthy for any match this season. Tuesday, the Gaels defeated Loyola, 39-25, without injured Shane McCarthy (119). Khris Reina (140) is performing despite a bum knee. Still, the Gaels are 6-1, having lost only to Pennsylvania power, Altoona.
"People think we bring in junior league all-stars from all over," said coach Paul Triplett. "We have five kids who never wrestled before coming here."
Senior Jon Mack (22-3) is in his third year and junior Steve Cooper (20-4) is in his second year. Only Mack (125) stands between Loyola's Ian Robbins and an unbeaten season. Mack has decisioned Robbins twice.
Cooper (189) dealt Loyola's Dave Daniecki his first loss of the season Tuesday.
The MSA tournament at Gilman, Feb. 14-16, will be very interesting. In addition to St. Joe, Gilman and Loyola, factor in Poly, which had four champions -- Phil Pass (112), Mike Compton (119), Mike Thompson (152) and Derrick Odoms (160) -- at last weekend's individual tourney at Overlea.
* The latest Maryland State Wrestling Association team rankings: 1. Old Mill; 2. Mt. St. Joe; 3. (tie) Owings Mills and North Carroll; 5. Smithsburg; 6. Gilman; 7. (tie) Broadneck and Bullis; 9. Annapolis; 10. (tie) Aberdeen and Northern-Garrett.