Gilman's Harrison leaves hype, opponents behind Senior's mat maturity results in 14-0 start

January 08, 1993|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,Staff Writer

Gerard Harrison has been humbled -- but not beaten -- by his pride.

In fact, the 119-pound senior Gilman wrestler has a 14-0 record entering tonight's match at No. 7 Boys' Latin.

Moreover, the 17-year-old senior boasts impressive victories, such as a 2-1 win over Wheaton's second-ranked, 4A-3A state runner-up Steve Barwick for the Magruder tournament title.

There is also his second straight North East (Cecil County) tournament title, 11-5, over Tim Taylor.

Harrison won his second straight St. Stephens/St. Agnes crown, 8-3, over Parkview's defending Virginia state champ, Mark Hernandez, and has a technical fall of Thomas Jefferson's district and regional champ Rob Johnson.

"He wrestles with more confidence, more patience and knows when to attack or defend," said Gilman coach Chris Legg, whose 9 Greyhounds are 1-0. "As a senior, he can use finesse, quickness and power."

Harrison, a two-time McDonogh tournament champ, isn't as likely to brag as he might have a year or two ago, when he went 25-4 as a sophomore and 29-6 (13 pins, two technical falls) as a junior.

"Every day, I learn something about myself," said Harrison, a two-time Maryland Scholastic Association runner-up. "It's kind of joke that I choke in the MSAs and haven't placed in national preps. My teammates are always reminding me."

He has beaten Broadneck's former state champ Charlie Bennett, two-time Delaware state champ Kevin Butswinkas (St. Mark's), former state runner-up Steve Lundstrom (Old Mill) and a New York prep state champ.

"I'd like to go undefeated if I can, but if I don't, I'll be happy with the other things Gilman has given me," said Harrison, who then referred to light heavyweight wrestler Chris Campbell, who won a bronze medal at the 1992 Summer Olympics at age 37.

"There are few Chris Campbells in the world, and I don't see myself reminiscing about the bad times when I'm 35. I realize a lot of this could end after my senior year."

It's the same guy talking, but many would argue that today's Gerard Harrison sounds profoundly different from the Harrison of three years back.

"He's still a teen-ager struggling for an identity," said assistant coach David Chae, who urged Harrison to wrestle as a sixth-grader. "He's involved with church, which gives him a spiritual anchor, and he's got a nice disposition. He's really come a long way."

Harrison is ranked fourth by the Maryland State Wrestling Association, compared with first as a sophomore. As a freshman, he earned the school's Scheffnacher Award for his mat and academic excellence.

The sophomore Harrison thought he was great.

"Not to seem conceited, but I was stuck on myself," said Harrison. "I got all this hype. Gilman hadn't had a top-ranked wrestler in years, and I was it."

Harrison earned the nickname "Rock" because of his inability to swim at an early age. But like everything else -- his talents as a thespian, a student and wrestler -- Harrison mastered that skill.

"Little kids looked up to me and said, 'Rock, you're awesome, you're the man,' " said Harrison. "I started to believe it and built myself up. I was stubborn, the worst person to be around."

In his sophomore season his first loss in the Gilman duals came, 3-2, to Aberdeen's Zack Fowl, now a top-ranked, two-time All-Metro and state champ at 119. The same day, Harrison narrowly lost to Butswinkas.

"I was talking a lot, and everyone was telling me how good I was," said Harrison. "The pressure was building, so in a way, I'm glad I went through it."

The season ended with a MSA title bout loss to Loyola's Tim Spielman, who won his first of two crowns.

"He was really down on himself, and I just tried to pick him up," said Harrison's cousin and closest friend, Jimmy Fields.

His junior season was even more disappointing, including a 9-1 loss to Damascus' eventual state champ Kendall Lloyd. He dropped the MSA title match, 3-1, to Calvert Hall's eventual national prep champ Greg Knox (30-1).

Harrison attributes his new understanding of himself to the teachings of his mother, Claudia, his coaches and teammates and his spiritual foundation.

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