Sometimes, there's no pressure greater than being the best -- except maybe being compared to the best.
During eight years as a junior league wrestler for the Burtonsville Club, Danny DeVivo opened the eyes of high school coaches. The Columbia resident won three state championships, the Northeast Regional freestyle and Greco-Roman titles and an Amateur Athletic Union national freestyle title.
"I watched as Danny man-handled a kid from Michigan who had rarely been scored upon," said Cornell Bass, coordinator with the Maryland State Wrestling Association. "He was beating guys from around the nation who had never been beaten before."
Before he had even stepped onto a mat for the start of his !B freshman year at Mount St. Joseph, DeVivo was being tabbed "the next Rico Chipparelli" -- a former MSJ wrestler who went on to win a National Collegiate Athletic Association title at the University of Iowa.
"It was kind of tough, mentally, and I never thought I'd let it get to me. But sometimes, I did," said DeVivo, 15, an honorable mention All-Metro selection whose record was 37-6 as a 145-pound Gaels wrestler during his freshman year last season. "I found this year that there were so many mental ups and downs that I never thought could happen to me. But next year, I think people will see me open up more."
If his runner-up finish in last weekend's Cadet Freestyle Grand Nationals in Amarillo, Texas, are any indication, DeVivo could yet live up to those expectations. DeVivo also finished eighth in the Greco-Roman competition last weekend, earning Cadet All-American honors for the second straight year.
"I also won the Greco-Roman and freestyle East Coast qualifier in June, so I've had a pretty good summer," said DeVivo, who left Wednesday with Maryland's Junior Team for the July 24-26 Greco-Roman/freestyle nationals in St. Paul, Minn.
Also going with the Juniors are countians Adam Seidman (132), Kevin Neville (154) and Monte Spencer (220).
Spencer, a two-time county and state heavyweight champion at Oakland Mills, and Neville, a Mount St. Joseph senior who won the Maryland Scholastic Association crown last winter, were each first-team All-Metro selections by The Baltimore Sun.
Seidman, a three-time county champion at Oakland Mills who placed third in the state two years ago, was an honorable mention All-Metro selection this past season.
This year's Junior Team boasts 18 state champions, five MSA champions and one National Prep champion.
Bass calls it "the best team since Chipparelli's days," with its youngest wrestler, DeVivo, being one of its most promising prospects.
"I love competing with the older guys," said DeVivo, a 154-pounder who will wrestle in both the Greco-Roman and freestyle competitions. "I may get thrown around a little bit, but it's better for me."
For the Gaels, DeVivo was a runner-up in the season-opening Archbishop Curley tournament, finished third at Annapolis and first in the Chesapeake tournament. At Chesapeake, he defeated Anne Arundel County champion Scott Woodland (Severna Park) for the second time during the season.
DeVivo was an MSA runner-up to the Friends School's Todd Helman. But DeVivo later avenged the loss by handing Helman his only defeat in 35 matches, on his way to a third-place finish in the National Prep tournament.
He hopes to continue his success beginning with Friday's first-round action.
"I'm going out there to try and reach perfection," said DeVivo. "And if I'm at my best, I think I can be an All-American."