Procaccini's mind helps his game

January 10, 1993|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,Staff Writer

In less than two full seasons, Old Mill senior Marc Procaccini has undergone a transformation from a "musclehead," to a "heady" wrestler.

Procaccini was coaxed into wrestling by his older brother, Gabe, as a Gilman School eighth-grader. His skills remained mediocre until transferring to Old Mill as a sophomore just before the county tournament.

By the end of last season, however, Procaccini was a smooth technician.

He reeled off 23 straight victories en route to a 28-2-1 state championship season that helped the Patriots capture an unprecedented fourth straight state title.

Procaccini, who had nine pins and five technical falls a year ago, is the Maryland State Wrestling Association's No. 2 160-pounder with a 14-3 record, six pins and four technical falls for the second-ranked Patriots (3-0).

His winning streak climbed to 26 before an overtime loss to Mount St. Joseph's top-ranked Danny DeVivo in the title bout of the Annapolis tournament. His only other losses also came in overtime against two highly touted Virginia wrestlers.

"Marc's basic ability was there, but he needed to learn some of the extra things to give him confidence," said Old Mill coach Mike Hampe. "Around the room was the essence of a good team. Marc fell right in, got rolling and has just risen to the level of competition."

As a 160-pound Gilman sophomore, Procaccini was pinned by future teammate and eventual state champ, Brian Layman.

"I was a muscle wrestler," said Procaccini, 17, who bench-presses 250 pounds. "I made poor decisions."

At Old Mill, he didn't see varsity action until his junior year.

He lost early to two Virginia wrestlers, Cox's state champ, Chad McFadder, and St. Stephen's/St. Agnes' John Navogratz, a St. Albans tournament champ.

But the low point was a tie with Annapolis' Dan Flynn, the younger brother of state champion Pat Flynn.

"I psyched myself out thinking he was going to be as good as his brother," said Procaccini.

"It was mostly a psychological. He was pretty good, but he wasn't as good as I thought."

Procaccini's reckless, all-or-nothing approach caused him to waste energy. He often panicked in tough spots, his intensity fading and his opponent's momentum increasing.

"I had this fear of being successful," he said.

Hampe said, "Marc is a very smart kid, much stronger than he appears when he wrestles. He just had to be more focused."

Assistant coach Jay Braunstein tightened Procaccini's defense and modified his offense with college-oriented moves. Practicing against Layman and regional champion John Bliss forced him to learn quickly.

"The moves almost always worked, and I did a lot of drilling. I learned to warm up properly for a match instead of going in cold," said Procaccini. "Then things began to flow."

Procaccini reaped the benefits, with two big wins in an eight-day span. He dropped Anne Arundel County and regional runner-up Greg Booth, who cut from 171 pounds to wrestle Procaccini. He later edged Broadneck's third-ranked Seth Lopatkiewicz, the favorite to win the 160-pound county title.

"Those matches were the icing on the cake. My confidence was building, " said Procaccini, who later scored two technical falls in the county tournament before nipping Lopatkiewicz, 5-3, for the title.

"I was realizing my potential," Procaccini said. "I got into a zone and didn't care who I wrestled. I just wanted to hit moves."

Two more technical falls and a decision earned Procaccini the regional crown. Before winning the states on a 10-2 decision of Walt Whitman's Brian Willard, 10-2, he faced a stiff challenge in the semifinals.

There, he faced Quince Orchard's fourth-ranked Eric Alban (32-1), who was third in the states the year before.

"I watched the tapes of him against Brian. He like tying up, using sucker drags or knee-tap [takedowns]," said Procaccini, whose fluid movement made an 8-2 decision look easy. "I liked the front LTC headlock he tried to use, and I was able to throw him by a lot."

Future decisions may be equally effortless if Procaccini uses the inside of his head instead of diving in head-first.

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