Mat History Is Made As The Teacher Beats The Pupil

EXTRA INNINGS

January 26, 1992|By GARY LAMBRECHT

The teacher finally beat the pupil.

Looking back at Hammond's historic wrestling victory at Oakland Mills Tuesday, one could dissect the evening several ways.

There was heavyweight Jesse Pitt, who ended the meet by, of all things, running from Oakland Mills' Monte Spencer for three periods.

Pitt needed to stay off his back to lift Hammond to victory, because a pin by Spencer would have salvaged a 31-31 tie for the Scorpions.And, without taking a shot at Spencer, Pitt lost a 22-11 decision but preserved a 31-29 victory for the Golden Bears.

There was the poignant, thrill-of-victory-agony-of-defeat snapshot of the opposing benches.

The Bears jumped into each other's arms. They wore the euphoric look of a team maybe too caught up in spontaneous celebration torealize what they had done -- hand the Scorpions and their irrepressible coach, Dan Ricker, their first county defeat in more than three seasons.

"This is probably the best feeling I've ever felt," said Brian Magill, Hammond's 140-pounder. "No words to describe it, just pure high. I never experienced anything like this. It won't sink in for a while."

The Scorpions hung their heads and cried. They shot bitter scowls across the mat. Some of them, unwilling to let go of the throne and acknowledge Hammond as the king of the hill for now, refused to shake hands with the Hammond wrestlers.

But in the middle ofthe bedlam that gripped the gym, Hammond coach Bill Smith and Rickermay have captured the moment better than anyone.

Teams usually reflect their coaches, and the Scorpions and Bears are no exception. They draw their energy from similar sources.

Smith and Ricker bring two of the more emotional, honest, refreshing personalities to the county sports scene. No one drives their players or competes harder. And no one is closer to his boys, or to each other, than those two.

Smith and Ricker formed a bond 10 years ago, when Smith was a teacherat Glenelg High School and Ricker was the county's premier athlete. Smith coached him for two years in lacrosse. Little did Smith know that in a few years, he and Ricker would square off as coaches.

After winding up a great football career at Towson State University -- heholds the school career rushing record -- Ricker was hired to replace Steve Carnahan at Oakland Mills.

A daunting task, considering the successful, 14-year run by Carnahan, who won 12 county titles. Ricker merely stepped in to win three straight county tournaments, going undefeated in league dual meets for three seasons.

Meanwhile, Smith had moved to Hammond, where he was coaching the junior varsity under Jeff Starnes. After Starnes left two years ago, Smith took over theprogram. And he's been chasing his old pupil ever since.

Last year, Smith thought he had the team to unseat Ricker. But the Scorpions defused his hopes with convincing victories during the regular seasonand at the county tournament.

Tuesday, after his boys had delivered his dream by pinning four Scorpions and hanging on at the end, Smith wept, then sought out Ricker to embrace him. And the first thing Smith said while the Bears were celebrating was, "I feel badly for Dan."

Excuse me? You've just won the match you've dreamed about winning and all you can think about is the other guy?

"I've been there and I know what he's feeling," Smith said. "I know what a great coachhe is. I coached him in lacrosse, but wrestling I learned from Danny. I learned how to work a team, how to run a team. He's responsible for this. I watch him and I learn from him."

Ricker countered frankly. "We won 25 straight and we got beat and it's a sick feeling. It'sso sick I can't even comprehend it," he said. "Losses are the toughest in wrestling. There are 13 individuals giving their heart and you get to know them. There's nothing like losing in this sport.

"But Bill has done a better job than anyone around. He recruited a bunch of kids, he built them, and they believe in him. He was my coach. I know what he's about. And they've got a lot to be proud of."

Both coaches immediately started thinking about their next meeting, at next month's county tournament. And the competitive juices began flowing again.

No, said Smith, the torch had not yet been passed to Hammond, not after such a slim margin of victory. The Bears still have to win the dual-meet title, then win the tournament. Ricker, of course, has sweet revenge on his mind.

"I feel at this point that might havebeen the best thing that could happen to us," Ricker said. "Not taking anything away from this, but the tournament is the real big deal. Bill knows it and I know it."

Smith said, "I've been in that position, thinking 'We'll get them in the tournament.' It's nicer to be inthis position. It adds a little more confidence to our kids going into the tournament. I'd rather have them breathing down our necks."

Smith can count on that. History has been made. The Scorpions' streak is dead. The slate is clean again. Give this round to the teacher, but next month, the pupil will be waiting.

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