Experience paying off for Sunderland In 2nd season, senior turns tables

January 12, 1993|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,Staff Writer

Last year, Dave Sunderland was a timid, inexperienced lanky junior of 225 pounds who was often intimidated by larger, more mature opponents.

Over the summer, he gained plenty of confidence, plus 15 pounds of muscle, with a strict training regimen, and is staring down the demons of his past.

The 6-foot-5, 240-pound Mount St. Joseph heavyweight did it twice in the Dec. 29-30 California University of Pa. tournament, which featured 29 teams.

In his quarterfinal bout, Sunderland faced a 6-5, 270-pound Florida wrestler who had easily pinned Sunderland in a summer camp two years ago.

Sunderland beat him this time, 6-0.

In the championship bout, Sunderland faced Illinois state champion Bo O'Rourke, who so manhandled Sunderland as a junior that Sunderland defaulted with an injured shoulder.

This time, however, Sunderland trailed only 6-4 with 30 seconds left. His takedown attempt led to a 10-second scramble before O'Rourke countered and slipped behind for a takedown and an 8-4 win.

"I wasn't disappointed with Dave, because last year, the guy ripped his shoulder out and fed it to him," said coach Paul Triplett of Sunderland, who began wrestling as a sophomore.

"He's wrestling with more confidence, and his maturity comes from his hard work with the weights and in practice."

Sunderland's transition began when he dethroned St. Paul's Troy Thinglestad, 7-1, in the title bout of last year's MSA tournament.

Sunderland had split earlier bouts with Thinglestad.

"I think that gave him incentive," said Triplett, a former Gaels wrestler and 190-pounder at the University of Maryland. "He's deceivingly strong, and we've worked on certain things, like relying more on his speed and quickness."

An angular heavyweight, Sunderland (16-2, nine pins) uses leverage and a crafty aggression, in addition to an effective slip of the head-lock -- a big-play move often employed by heavyweights.

"Last year, I just took what was given. Now I have more technique," said Sunderland.

His strengths are where most heavyweights are weakest: on the mats.

"Riding is one of my stronger points, and I can usually get out on bottom," said Sunderland. "Unless the guy's in super condition -- the way Coach pushes us -- I'm at an advantage."

The defending MSA champ is ranked No. 2 by the Maryland State Wrestling Association.

"My goals this year are to win MSAs and to place in National Preps," said Sunderland, who went 26-7 last season (2-1 at the National Preps). "The California tournament boosted my confidence. I was like, 'I'm the only guy on my team in the finals. That's gotta say something about how good I am.' It's only my second full year, so I still underestimate myself sometimes. But I'm starting to realize what being ranked No. 2 means.

"I expected that I'd be counted on to make more of a contribution," said Sunderland. "Instead of watching the guys in the finals, I'm wrestling in them. I'm getting used to the pressure."

Sunderland faced an early challenge at the season's outset.

A first-team, All-Metro defensive lineman in football, Sunderland was picked to play on the MSA All-Stars against the Baltimore County All-Stars.

But football practices were being held the same week as the initial wrestling practices, and the MSA-Baltimore County game was being played the Sunday after Annapolis' tournament.

For nine days, Sunderland split practices for two sports, while nursing a burst bursa sac in his right knee.

Sunderland endured, managing an 8-5 victory over Riverdale Baptist's third-ranked Blaine Gasch for his second straight Maryland Catholic League Invitational title at Archbishop Curley.

A week later, he reached the finals of the Annapolis tournament, including a 6-1, semifinal decision of Bullis' fifth-ranked Alex Berger.

Sunderland wrestled badly, however, in losing the championship bout, 3-0, to Walt Whitman's top-ranked Emil Dolzeal, a 275-pounder.

"That was a kid who pinned him last year, and I think he was unsure and tentative," said Triplett. "I think he psyched himself out of that one."

Sunderland agreed.

"I knew what kind of wrestler Dolzeal was, and I wrestled his reputation more than the guy in front of me," said Sunderland. "It was a lot different than the finals at California, where I figured I deserved to be there."

He showed his maturity in the semifinals of the Chesapeake Cougar Invitational a week later, pinning a 6-6, 270-pound wrestler from Calvert High.

"I knew nothing about him, but he was probably one of the stronger guys I wrestled, so I was kind of conservative," said Sunderland. "But I knew if I took him into the second and third periods, I could take him."

When Mount St. Joseph is mentioned, said Sunderland, "I want people to say, 'They've got a good heavyweight.' "

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