Grunder could be 1st four-timer Northeast wrestler seeks school mark

February 08, 1993|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,Staff Writer

Al Grunder wants to become the first Northeast wrestler to qualify for the state tournament in each of his four seasons on the varsity.

But is he too late?

Does anyone know for sure?

Having researched the subject for nearly three years, Grunder believes he would become the first Eagle to accomplish the feat if he advances again this season. But his coach, Al Kohlhafer, who arrived at Northeast in 1969, says, "I have no idea whatsoever.

"I haven't thought about it at all. It's great for the kid -- it's super -- if it's true. It's not that I don't think it's noteworthy. It's just not something I'd keep track of. If it is true, it's great, but I just don't know."

Kohlhafer went back through the Northeast record books and couldn't find anyone who had gone to the states in all four years. So, at least for now, Grunder seems to be on to something here.

"I was talking to my dad, and he said, 'I wonder if anybody has made it to the states all four years,' and that's what caught my attention. He said it when I was in 10th grade, and that's when I started trying see if I could find anybody that made it all four years," he said.

"I'm almost positive that there hasn't been a four-time state qualifier."

Grunder stumbled during his first three trips to the states, failing to place each time. But he's gradually improved his finishes in the region tournaments, taking fourth as a freshman, third as a sophomore and first last year.

"Last year I thought was going to be my year," he said.

Having been a county runner-up to Annapolis' Chip Cochran before winning the region title at 152 pounds, he made it to the 1A-2A semifinals before losing, 9-3, to Hereford's Jesse Channell, the eventual champion. Grunder was one of five Eagles to qualify for the states.

Now competing at 160 -- except for two bouts when he moved up to 171 -- Grunder won't be satisfied with simply getting back to the tournament and staking his claim to an apparent record.

"This year, I'm going to make a change. I'm going to be state champ in 1A-2A," he said.

Grunder, whose younger brother, Jason, wrestles at 145 or 152, seems to be heading in the right direction. Bringing a 16-5 record -- including nine pins -- into Saturday's wrestling tournament at Broadneck, Grunder got one of two pins over South Carroll's Chesapeake tournament champion, Charles Setters, to reach the title bout.

There, however, he lost, 6-2, to Queen Anne's 4A-3A Region IV runner-up Jason Mackey (23-1, 19 pins), who had edged him, 9-8, in an earlier dual meet.

"His strength gave me a problem, that's about it," said Grunder, whose earlier loss to Mackey prevented the Eagles from shutting out Queen Anne's. "We're equal in knowledge, he's just stronger than me. It doesn't matter that I didn't win the tournament, I just wanted to beat Mackey."

Mount St. Joseph's top-ranked Danny DeVivo and Arundel's third-ranked Greg Booth are among the other top wrestlers Grunder has faced and lost to.

"He's had a very good season so far," Kohlhafer said. "We still have a lot of wrestling to go, and a lot of things can happen between now and [the states], but I think he stands a pretty good chance of placing fairly high in the county, and the same thing in the regions.

"The state tournament? That's too far away."

It was close enough to have Kohlhafer doing some research of his own.

"I think his chances are pretty good of making the states," Kohlhafer said.

"It's just so hard to say. You really can't predict that because if you have a bad first match, that could conceivably put you out. It's so hard to tell, but I think he's got a very good chance.

"I think he would have to be considered one of the top four kids in his weight class in the region."

And a wrestler who soon might accomplish something quite unique at Northeast.

At least, as far as anybody knows.

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