When last seen by many countians, Chesapeake's Ron Alexander was stomping off of the mat after losing a 6-5 decision to Glen Burnie's Mark Nevin in February's county wrestling tournament.
"I was disappointed, but there was nothing I could do about it," recalled Alexander, who allowed Nevin to build a 5-0 first-period lead in their 125-pound bout. "It was one of those things where our styles clashed and nothing meshed for me. And we were both hot-headed.
"Over the summer, attitude control has become my No. 1 priority -- and I've done pretty well. I haven't argued with a single referee."
He certainly can't argue with the results he got in last weekend's Amateur Athletic Union Grand Nationals tournament in Amarillo,
Texas, where he placed fourth out of 34 Greco-Roman wrestlers.
"Last year, I got killed. I got pinned in 40 seconds by the guy who won it, and lost, 16-6, to a guy who placed ninth," said Alexander, 17, who posted an 8-3 record in the tournament.
"This time, I think I was ready for the competition. I wasn't as intimidated, so it wasn't a big deal."
What is a big deal to Alexander is Sunday's Maryland State Games Greco-Roman tournament at Towson State University. He was a runner-up in the event a year ago, losing his 123-pound championship bout to Broadneck's Josh Marder.
"Now they're calling it the Greco-Roman state title, and I want to get back what was taken away from me," said Alexander, who defeated Marder during last winter's county tournament.
"I think I can probably do it at 132, but I'm purposely going down to 123 because that's where I lost it last year. I may not be wrestling the same guy, but at least I can try to win it in the same weight class."
In addition to wrestling about four times a week and running every day, Alexander spends at least three hours a day, five days a week lifting weights.
"For my weight, I'm pretty strong. But I want to get stronger and with more muscle endurance," said Alexander, who stands a slender 5-foot-9. "I'm not lifting to get big -- I'd have to gain weight to do that."
Alexander had placed third in the county tournament as a sophomore and brought an excellent, 20-7-1 record into this year's county tournament.
During the regular season, Alexander had captured his second straight Aberdeen tournament crown -- defeating Harford County champion Frank Johnson in the process -- after a runner-up freshman finish. He also placed third in the Chesapeake Cougar Invitational and defeated South River's Greg Nida, an eventual 119-pound county and regional runner-up, in a dual meet.
But after dropping a 3-2 decision to South River's two-time runner-up Billy Whitcher, who eventually won the county and regional crowns, Alexander lost his head against Nevin and failed to place among the top four wrestlers.
A similar situation occurred in the regional tournament the following week, where Alexander pinned his first opponent and upset Calvert's third-seed Bill Pawlowski, 5-1, before dropping decisions to county and regional runner-up Seth Robbins (Annapolis) and unheralded Joe Delong (Old Mill).
Chesapeake, ranked as high as ninth by the Maryland State Wrestling Association and fifth by The Baltimore Sun, sent seven wrestlers to the Class 4A-3A state tournament.
But Alexander -- who failed to finish in the top four of the regional meet -- wasn't one of them.
"Something was missing in the way I was wrestling. I would stop doing the takedowns I had learned," said Alexander. "Freestyle is mostly takedowns, and you barely go on the top or bottom. So when we started practicing on the mat in school, I think I started losing [my ability to do takedowns]. But this summer, I've improved even more."
This summer, Alexander has enjoyed far more success than he did a year ago. It began with an impressive effort back on May 10 when he captured Amateur Athletic Union state titles in both the Greco-Roman and freestyle competitions.
In early June, Alexander traveled to Damascus with the state's representatives in the Potomac Valley Challenge, which pits Marylanders against some of the best wrestlers from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Virginia.
Alexander bumped up a weight class for the first time -- to 132 pounds -- and still pinned his Virginia adversary before winning a 3-0 decision over his New Jersey opponent.
He dropped the third bout of the quad meet, but that was while wrestling up two weight classes at 143 pounds.
"I've got all of my skills back, and from now on, I'll keep concentrating on everything," said Alexander. "I want to wrestle in college, so I need to [attract] attention for my senior year. For me, it's now or never."