Charlie Bennett only broke even in last weekend's Freestyle Junior Nationals in St. Paul, Minn.
But to the 114-pound senior wrestler from Broadneck High, the accomplishment was nearly as great as winning his second straight Region IV title at 112 pounds last winter, or capturing the 103-pound Class 4A-3A state title as a sophomore.
"The last couple of times I went out there [junior nationals], I didn't do anything. I couldn't win a match," said Bennett, who scored two victories against as many losses as a member of this year's Maryland Junior Team.
After building a 7-1 lead over the Minnesota state champ in his opening bout, Bennett, said he "ran out of gas" before his opponent tied the bout at 10 and eventual swiped a 12-10 victory.
"He was pretty big and fast and I couldn't keep him off," said Bennett, who won his next two bouts by 10-2, and by technical fall over opponents from Wisconsin and Vermont, respectively.
Bennett, who dropped his final bout to a California state champion, will bring a two-year, 65-6 record -- including consecutive county runner-up finishes -- into his final season at Broadneck.
"This time, I did a lot better than I thought I would," said Bennett, who placed third in this year's Class 4A-3A state tournament. "The nationals have taught me a lot for next season."
Two more countians who participated were Broadneck graduate and Class 4A-3A state champion Shawn Miller (123), a two-time All-Metro selection and the Anne Arundel County Sun's 1991-1992 Wrestler of the Year, and Pasadena resident Shane ** McCarthy (143), a senior at Mount St. Joseph.
McCarthy, a two-time Maryland Scholastic Association champion and one-time MSA runner-up, went 3-2 in his bouts and Miller went winless in two matches.
On the strength of a combined 18 high school state champions, five MSA champions and one National Prep tournament champ, the Maryland team accumulated 62 victories -- more than any other state team had ever achieved in the tournament.
Two wrestlers, two-time Class 2A-1A state champ Grant Johnson (Owings Mills senior, 165 pounds) and two-time Class 4A-3A state champion Mike Jenson (Randallstown graduate, 178), placed seventh and eighth overall and gained All-America status in their weight classes.
Miller placed fourth in the high school nationals in folkstyle wrestling to gain All-America honors last May. And, despite his inexperience in freestyle wrestling, junior team coaches felt they had a third freestyle all-American in Miller, who went 35-0 to win last winter's 119-pound, Class 4A-3A state title.
"We were counting on Shawn for at least five wins," said Cornell Bass, coordinator with the Maryland State Wrestling Association.
"But maybe that was too much to expect since he hadn't been working out as long as some of the other guys. Shawn's more of a folkstyle wrestler and you can't get by on that in freestyle. I think he'll improve while he's at [Lock Haven University] next year."