Mustangs kick up heels in wrestling, basketball

December 23, 1992|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,Staff Writer

The Mervo boys basketball and wrestling teams are enjoyin surprising success this season.

The Mustangs on the mat were an unanticipated 3-0 against Maryland Scholastic Association B Conference opponents before yesterday's match at Carver, last year's C Conference champion.

Meanwhile, the basketball team was 3-1 before yesterday, including a three-game winning streak, since dropping its opener, 60-52, to Douglass.

A bench-clearing fight forced the early ending of the Mervo-Poly basketball game Monday with under a minute left in the first overtime and the Mustangs ahead 67-64.

And as of yesterday afternoon, Don Williams, curriculum specialist for physical education and athletics in Baltimore schools, said the situation would be unresolved until he had weighed the facts and basketball commissioner Tom McCann had talked to officials who worked the game.

Coach Woody Williams calls his Mustangs "a blue-collar basketball team."

"Like any coach, I was disappointed in losing the first game," said Williams. "We're working hard every game to do the best that we can."

Out in the scoring forefront after three games was 6-foot-1 senior guard Warren Wright, whose 25.3 points and 6.5 assists ranked second and eighth, respectively, among area leaders. Junior guard Corey Hartz has been a pleasant surprise, averaging 16.3 points and his 7.0 assists ranking fourth in the area.

"Warren's one of our four or five seniors on the team, and he's doing everything we can ask of him," said Williams. "But I don't like to point out individuals because it's a team game and every one has their role. When the team does well, the individuals will reap those accolades."

The Mustangs have been far from a one-man team, with players such as senior guard/forward Victor Jones averaging nearly nine rebounds and 4.5 assists, and 6-3 senior forward/center Rodney Cabean and 6-4 senior Sheldon Downing. Cabean's 14.3 rebounds ranked fifth in the area, and Downing (13.3 rebounds) wasn't far behind.

Senior guard Dontrell Jones and junior forward Mike Almond -- the Mustangs' tallest player at 6-5 -- also are contributing as the Mustangs gear up to host their Dec. 29-31 tournament, which will feature City, Douglass, Carver, Patterson, Northwestern, Southwestern and Lake Clifton. The regular season begins with a Jan. 5 outing against top-ranked Dunbar.

"We'll just keep working hard and try to get the job done," said Williams. "But we're far from satisfied, because we have a long way to go."

Head wrestling coach Dwight Warren offered modest expectations at the season's outset, but he and assistant coach Ron Taylor have been proven pleasantly wrong.

"We haven't been hiding anything," said Taylor. "We've just had wrestlers come through when we needed pins, and guys not get pinned when we didn't need that. Everything's just fallen into place so far."

Unbeaten with three pins were Larry Clary (125), Tyrell Armstrong (135) and McAnthony Thompson (119). Heavyweight Junius Myers had a pin and a 6-5 decision, with the latter helping the Mustangs to edge Dunbar, 39-30.

"It's better to win ugly than to lose gracefully," said Taylor. "We came into the season with a real young team with three strong wrestlers and that was it. Dunbar tied Carver, so beating Dunbar could springboard us into a better season than we had previously thought."

zTC Taylor calls team captain Armstrong "one of the best 135-pounders in the conference."

"Coaches have been sending their guys out just hoping they don't get pinned," said Taylor. "But so far, it hasn't worked."

One to watch

Keep an eye on McDonogh freshman J. R. Plienis, who has an 8-0 record with six pins.

He won a junior league state title last year, and before that, a combined 15 national titles across three different styles -- sambo, freestyle and Greco-Roman.

But the 189-pound Eagles wrestler faces perhaps a greater challenge in this his first high school season: wrestling more physically mature opponents as the season progresses, including a Jan. 5 meeting with Loyola's Dave Daniecki, a defending MSA champ and first-team All-Metro pick.

Rarely does a freshman wrestler reach a state or MSA title -- especially at an upper weight.

Only three freshmen -- all wrestlers at 119 pounds or below -- had won state titles before last season. They were Bobby Truby (Sherwood), Matt Slutzky (Aberdeen) and Craig Middledorf (Paint Branch).

Frederick's Tim Novak became the fourth freshman to earn a state title last year, winning, 9-7, at 103 pounds over Eastern Vocational Tech's Wayne Gast. Also as a freshman last year, Dunbar's Bruce Pendles (103), became the Poets' youngest Maryland Scholastic Association champion.

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