Judy Burley likes to tell the story about how her son, Robert, 17, used to sing to his unborn little sister, Shimiecha Johnson, during Judy's pregnancy.
"He was always hoping for a little sister," Judy said. "He'd lay his head up to my stomach and sing different songs to her. He was so gentle."
Unfortunately for Burley's opponents on the wrestling mats, he's the complete opposite in a match.
Take the Southern wrestler's heavyweight championship bout against Great Mills' Lee Davis in Saturday's fifth annual Southern Invitational. Seconds after cradling 5-year-old Shimiecha in arms that bench press 355 pounds, Burley, a 202-pounder, flattened the 275-pound Davis just 27 seconds into the second period.
Davis, who suffered his first loss, was the one used to doing the flattening: He had pinned all 10 of his previous opponents.
But Burley, fifth-ranked by the Maryland State Wrestling Association,is coming off last year's county and regional runner-up finish.
"I'm used to wrestling the big guys. He just made a mistake, and it was the wrong one," said Burley, who improved to 11-2.
The only losses for Burley, who was third in last year's Class 2A-1A tournament, have come on decisions to Old Mill's No. 3-ranked Don Marco and Westminster's No. 4 James Stump by a combined four points.
Sherrard Neal(112, 10-2) was a runner-up for Southern, which finished eighth (90 points). Neal, third in the state last year, had a 4-2 lead before Laurel's county and regional runner-up Danny Suite scored a five-point move in the third period.
With six wrestlers finishing in the top three of their weight classes, South River tied Hammond, 170-170. TheSeahawks won their third title in the 15-year history of the meet, because they had a 4-1 advantage on Hammond in individual titlists.
But with only 148.5 points entering the championship round, the Seahawks (6-1), ranked No. 10 in the metro area, trailed both No. 8 Hammond (164) of Howard County and defending champion Chopticon (153.5) ofSt. Mary's County.
The Seahawks got 9.5 of their 20.5 points in the round from Gred Nida (119, a 17-3 record), who scored a technical fall over Central's Lance Correia, and No. 4-ranked Bill Whitcher (125, 18-0), who built a 7-2 lead over Hammond's Chris Mercurio (17-4) and held on for an 8-6 victory.
"My guy was huge. I couldn't believe that he was wrestling 125," said Whitcher, who placed fourth in theClass 4A-3A state tournament after county and regional runner-up finishes a year ago.
Of Mercurio, who bench presses 300 pounds, Whitcher said: "The last time I saw him, he was wrestling 135. He was strong, but I still should have wrestled better."
Hammond maxed out at170 when the Bears' Chris Williams (135) overcame a 2-0 deficit to pin Chopticon's Jun Davis in 2 minutes, 28 seconds, and after Laurel'sNo. 3-ranked Chris Kluckhuhn (14-0) overcame a 2-0 deficit for his 10th pin over Hammond's Mac Goudy.
Chopticon's only champion of four finalists was Phil Gainey (103, 14-4), who pinned South River freshman Travis Murdock (103, 16-5).
And with no Hammond wrestlers leftin the finals, the Seahawks salvaged the tie on a first-period pin from Andy McMahon (160, 15-4) and another from Jaron Hairston (171, 17-3) with just 12 seconds left in his bout.
"They responded incredibly," said South River coach Chilly Orme, whose third-place finisher,junior Matt King (189), edged Hammond's Pat Brennen (fourth in the state last year).
"They knew we needed pins -- and that's a lot to ask," Orme said. "But they did it. That was incredible, just incredible."
"Unbelievable" more aptly describes what Hairston thought when Orme yelled for him to let up his opponent, Laurel's Joe Athey, while holding a 6-2 lead with 30 seconds left in the bout.
"Honestly,I didn't want to let him up," said Hairston, a junior. "I was tired,and I was having a hard enough time holding him down. But I just listened to my coaches, and that's how I pinned him."
Nida reached the final by pulling the upset of the tournament, 5-2, over Chopticon'sfourth-ranked Jeff Daigle (17-1). Nida trailed, 2-0, early in the bout but scored three back points in the bout's final 10 seconds.
"Once he took me down, my intensity level just rose and I wanted it more," said Nida, who hammered Daigle, 9-0, two years ago when Daigle finished as a state runner-up.
Nida's victory also gained a measure of revenge for teammate Whitcher, who lost to Daigle three times lastyear.
"Once I got a reversal and tied the match, I was like 'thiskid can be beat if I take it to him,' " said Nida. "So that's what Idid."