Question: A high school athlete who can bench-press 315 pounds would most likely be:
a) an All-Metro defensive tackle
b) a soccer goalie
c) a state heavyweight wrestling champion
d) a lacrosse defenseman.
Yes, of course this is a trick question. But (surprise!) you had two chances to get it right because Howard's Joe Wilson is both b) and d) and puts up impressive numbers in the weight room, too.
And don't think that the 6-foot, 190-pound senior is merely a tightly wadded ball of muscle bouncing around in the grass, throwing his body in the way of people and projectiles. There is skill and athleticism here, eye-hand coordination.
Wilson, last fall, was an honorable mention All-Metro goalie for the Lions' No. 2-ranked soccer team. A second-team All-Metro selection last spring as a lacrosse defenseman, he's back as a four-year starter.
"He was the only freshman ever to play and start since 1975 when we started the program here," said Dan Ross, Howard's lacrosse coach. "He came to us as a good athlete . . . I knew when he was a freshman, he was going to be a good one . . . he was a decent size kid but he was thin. He's put on some weight with weight training. A lot of kids say they're going to work out, but very few do. He's got excellent work habits. He stays after things."
Wilson certainly stays after ground balls. Last year he set a school record with 227, and already has had games of 18 and 19 for the Lions (2-0). "It's pretty much mental," said Wilson. "When you see the ball on the ground you just bust your butt to get to it."
And when he gets the ball he likes to do something with it. "With the ball in your stick you can make things happen," said Wilson, who picked up three goals and eight assists last year. "That's more exciting than just stopping someone . . . I like clearing the ball a lot -- running upfield, starting a fastbreak that ends in a goal. You feel more into the game instead of just playing defense."
"He's like a vacuum," said Ross. "The ball is on the ground and then it's gone."
Wilson started playing soccer at age 8, but lacrosse came later. "In eighth grade my friend had a stick. I got interested and played in the Hero summer league and made the all-star team. I started liking it . . . I was always kind of big for my age, 5-11 in the eighth grade, so they put me at defense. I kind of got stuck there, but then I really liked it."
He continued playing in the Hero and Loch Raven summer leagues and attended lacrosse camps the last three years. "I compared myself to the private school players, like from Boys' Latin," he said. "I was trying to be one of the better players around, not just in Howard County."
He succeeded, and with his 3.6 grade-point average was recruited by Maryland, North Carolina, Duke, Johns Hopkins and Virginia. Hoping to become a pediatrician, Wilson liked the mix of athletics and academics at Virginia and committed to the Cavaliers.
"I think he's going to play as a freshman," said Ross. "He's going to make them play him."