Owings Mills returned two individual state champion wrestlers from last year's Class 2A-1A state championship squad, each of whom takes a different approach to achieving success.
Grant Johnson, the Maryland State Wrestling Association's top-ranked 160-pounder, is as careful and calculating when he speaks as he is when he competes. Greg Kessler, the top-ranked 135-pounder, talks nearly as quickly as he moves on the mat.
Although their personalities differ, their progress last year was nearly identical: They combined for 63 victories against one defeat, winning county and regional crowns to go along with their state titles.
"He's more laid back, and I'm just more intense," said Kessler, 16, who went 35-0 (20 pins) last season. "I just want to go for it in most of my matches, and Grant probably paces himself better."
"I just try to make things happen and then be satisfied," said Johnson, who was a first-team All-Metro selection after last year's 28-1 record; he is 18-0 this season. "But I'm almost never satisfied. I am real critical of the way I wrestle. I can find something wrong with my match ever time.
"Like when I had a lot of problems with the way I wrestled in the Gilman Duals [his only loss] last year. I corrected the problem, then I took it out on everyone else I wrestled for the rest of the year."
Similarly, Johnson expects Kessler (18-1) to bounce back from his only loss, 11-6, to Gilman's No. 2-ranked John Kim (22-0) in last Saturday's Gilman Duals.
"That loss was good for me," Kessler said. "It's just total motivation. I'd rather lose now than in the states. I'm not going to change anything. It's going to be like after I lost in the states as a sophomore: No more playing around. Just going to stay totally focused and keep living right and eating right."
That's another difference between Johnson and Kessler: Their eating habits.
"Grant's in love with food," joked Kessler. "The only way to explain it is that he just eats a lot."
Johnson's growth spurts are now infamous at Owings Mills.
As a 112-pound sophomore, Johnson was a Baltimore County tournament runner-up and placed third in both the regional and state tournaments. He weighed less than Kessler, who was third in the county tournament at 119 pounds before winning the regional title.
Since last year, when he was a 5-foot-5, 130-pounder, Johnson has added four inches to his rangy, yet taut frame. He weighed 170 pounds during the fall when he played fullback for the Eagles' football team.
"I did some weight training, mostly for conditioning and body sculpting," said Johnson. "But it's mostly because I have a big appetite. I eat whatever I want, and a lot of it."