No-nonsense Hepfer has respect pinned down Arundel wrestlers revere their coach

January 27, 1993|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,Staff Writer

As an Arundel senior, Chuck Markiewicz figured he was the man.

Surely his wrestling coach, Buddy Hepfer, wouldn't mind if he goofed off, slacked up a little in practice or at a match. At 26, Hepfer was only a third-year coach. He was cool. He'd understand.

"He cut me," said Markiewicz, who returned two weeks later and won county and regional titles. "Later, I realized I wasn't being a part of the team. I needed him more than he needed me."

Hepfer, 48 and in his 25th season, has built a 183-73-4 dual-meet record with six titles. He has seven county titles and seven regionals with a state crown in 1985.

He has yet to compromise his principles for any wrestler -- including his sons, Greg, 17, and Frank Jr., 22. Frank Jr. placed fourth in the state as a senior.

"Here, he's Coach; at home, he's Dad," said Greg, a senior, at Monday's practice. "When we're at home, he's a different person, yet still the same. But in practice, I don't consider him Dad, I don't call him Dad. As a coach, he's hard, but he's fair."

Greg Booth, third-ranked at 171 pounds, nearly quit as a freshman. Today, he's a front-runner for a state title.

"It was my respect for him that kept me around," said Booth, a senior. "You look back on certain situations and say, 'I'm glad he pushed me here, or there.' I look up to him like a father."

Markiewicz, 37, hasn't forgotten the lessons Hepfer taught him -- lessons he has used in 10 years as a wrestling coach at Meade, Chesapeake and North County high schools.

"I remember he would bet us a quarter to try to keep him down for three seconds -- there wasn't a guy in the room who could stay withhim," said Markiewicz, North County's football coach. "I wanted to grow up and be just like him."

Hepfer emulates his Curwensville (Pa.) High School coach, John Palmer. He still sends Christmas cards to the man who turned him into a scholarship wrestler at the University of Maryland.

"He always went to bat for you," said Hepfer, a 145-pound state runner-up. "If you were honest."

At 5 feet 9, 163 pounds, Hepfer is in fine shape, but a back injury seven years ago ended his free-for-alls with younger wrestlers.

As the No. 13 Wildcats prepared for today's match against No. 2-ranked Old Mill, his whistle carried the ear-piercing authority it always has, setting 30 or so bodies in synchronized motion.

"You know when you wrestle a Buddy Hepfer-coached team. They're going to be aggressive," said Old Mill coach Mike Hampe. "Around here, we call him 'The Grandfather.' "

Conducting one tournament is a chore in itself. Hepfer has played host to two -- one in late December and another in January -- with varsity and junior varsity competitions.

The events are often a family affair, with his youngest children, Alisha, 12, and Mark, 8, handling paperwork.

"The framework for some of the county and regional tournaments are Buddy's," said Jeff Amdur, a scorekeeper and announcer at both tournaments. "But he's a background guy who rarely takes credit."

Hepfer says he gets plenty of support from his wife, Irene, and assistance from former pupils, such as Sean Hyer and Mark Frazier.

He stores memories and records in a filing cabinet in a small office inside the practice room.

"That year, I went 4-8 with eight guys on the team. This kid got kicked off the team for chewing tobacco," said Hepfer, staring at an old roster.

"How long will I keep doing this? I honestly don't know. I guess I feel like this sport keeps me young."

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