Arundel's Booth pins hopes on new attitude

January 14, 1993|By Tom Worgo | Tom Worgo,Contributing Writer

When the Arundel High wrestling team was concluding practice one day last week with simulated matches, Greg Booth challenged Sean Quigley.

In the simulated matches, team members face each other and think they are down by one point with 10 seconds remaining. In about three seconds, Booth tossed his teammate to the mat, resulting in less practice time for himself. Quigley just shook his head in disbelief.

The senior is doing the same thing to the competition -- dominating. Booth's career mark is 75-23, and the Arundel co-captain, ranked No. 3 by the Maryland State Wrestling Association, has a chance to post the most wins for a Wildcats wrestler since 1971, when Buddy Hepfer became the school's head coach.

Last week, Booth pinned Chesapeake's Keith Sellers in 1:19. In the Arundel tournament, Dec. 29-30, Booth pinned two competitors, and defeated Wilde Lake's Mike Green, ranked fifth in the state at 171.

Last weekend, he pinned Poly's Rashad Kitchen, who was third in last year's Maryland Scholastic Association tournament. Gilman's Jamie Biddison, an MSA runner-up last season, bumped up to 189 pounds to get away from Booth.

"He has the potential to be a state champion," Hepfer said of Booth, who dropped from 189 to 171 after the Meade Invitational last month to take advantage of his quickness. "And if he works hard enough, he can get it."

Booth, the most experienced Wildcat with four years of varsity experience, went 28-6 last year at 171 pounds, finishing as runner-up in the county and region and placing fourth in the state. He is off to a fast start this season at 12-1.

A double-overtime loss to Loyola's No. 3-ranked 189-pounder, Dave Daniecki, an All-Metro selection last season, in the Meade Invitational is spurring Booth to improve his escapes.

"Losing to him and the way in which I lost kind of turned me around," Booth said. "It kind of hurts when you are on the bottom and you couldn't get out. That just made me work harder on my escapes.

"I went into that tournament not realizing how tough a season I had in front of me. I would have rather lost in the beginning of the season and learned what I had to work on than lose when it really counts, like at the end of the season."

Another problem plagued Booth last season -- psyching himself out against top opponents. It happened to him when he lost in the states last March to Quince Orchard's Jacob Ritchie and during the regular season to Brian Layman (Old Mill) and Mike Jenson (Randallstown). Booth, however, said the problem has been corrected.

"I psyched myself out against some of the big-name guys in the county last season, and it resulted in some losses," he said. "I was kind of hesitant wrestling with them last year."

Hepfer will not let his star wrestler forget about his weaknesses.

"I get on him in practice like any other kid," Hepfer said. "He can be a lot better. After the match [with Daniecki], I told him he couldn't get out from the bottom. And I have said to him, 'Are you going to believe in yourself or psyche yourself out?' He knows what's going on."

Arundel's biggest event of the regular season, its own invitational tournament tomorrow and Saturday featuring the top teams and wrestlers from the metropolitan area, will provide Booth with another big test in McDonough's Chris Brown, who was third in the state at 171 last year.

"This tournament gets him set for the counties," Hepfer said. "It could be the key that gets him over the hump. If he wins it, then he's got something to talk about. If he's going to be state champion, then he's going to have to win here."

Hepfer said Booth, a three-year starter and co-captain on the football team, who played offensive and defensive line, possesses several strengths as a wrestler -- great knowledge of the sport, mat savvy, excellent quickness, super conditioning and the ability to keep his opponent on the mat. But his best attribute, Hepfer said, may be his desire not to lose a match.

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