One win shy in '92, Millers' Harris aims for atonement Highly rated junior seeks 2A-1A state title

February 14, 1993|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,Staff Writer

The only things separating Milford Mill wrestler Gary Harris and an undefeated 2A-1A state championship season last year were two points and North Carroll's Jeremy Myers.

Harris' 31-0 record entering his title bout against Myers included his second straight county crown along with the regional title.

He had pinned several opponents, including Boys' Latin's Tim Berger, a favorite to win a Maryland Scholastic Association title this year.

But when he stepped onto the mat against Myers, the Millers' standout "just didn't have it," and lost, 5-3.

"Some matches, I just wasn't at my best," said Harris, a 17-year-old junior with a 19-0 record, including 10 pins and two technical falls as the top seed entering next weekend's county tournament.

"I'm not making any excuses, but I should have beat Myers that day. I should have been at my best."

He'll have to be better this year -- and so far he has been.

Harris, ranked third at 112 pounds, is among five ranked wrestlers expected to contend for the 2A-1A state title. The others are top-ranked Myers, No. 2 Marty Kusick (Northeast), No. 4 Bruce Pendles (Dunbar) and No. 5 John Noggle (Smithsburg).

Harris edged Noggle, 8-5, in last year's state semifinals; Kusick was third after a 7-5 semifinal loss to Myers, and Pendles (23-0) is the defending MSA champ. Another threat is Harford County champ Brandon Moore (North Harford), who was beaten by Harris, 4-2, for last year's regional title.

"He's wrestling quite well, but he still tends to rise or fall to the level of his competition," said Milford Mill coach Eric King. "There's only one person who can stop Gary Harris -- and that's Gary Harris."

Owings Mills coach Guy Pritzker first saw Harris as a skinny 12-year-old when Pritzker became his junior league coach in the Randallstown program.

"[Dundalk coach] Bob Hutsler was my gym teacher at Old Court Middle, and he directed me to Randallstown," said Harris, who won a state title as a 13-year-old.

Said Pritzker: "He was a real hard-working, tough kid. Even then, I could see he learned quickly. He beat the Kusicks, Tim Novak [Frederick's defending 4A-3A state champion] -- he learned at 100 mph."

Each of Harris' four career losses have been close, but they've always come at critical points in the season. Take his 29-3 freshman year.

His first high school loss came against Aberdeen's Zack Fowl, who is now a top-ranked two-time state champion at 119 pounds. Their bout was tied at 2 with 20 seconds left when Fowl pinned Harris for the regional crown.

Damascus' Kendall Lloyd edged Harris, 8-7, in the state semifinals en route to an overtime runner-up finish to Fowl. Harris, meanwhile, was relegated to the loser's bracket, where he dropped a decision to Pikesville's Justin Sisserman after having beaten him five times before.

Two years later, however, Harris is more motivated than ever. To his repertoire of slick mat maneuvers he has added some muscle and improved his takedowns.

"I've been working a lot with the weights this year, and I feel stronger in my upper body -- like with throws," said Harris, who has wrestled mostly at 119 this year.

"I'm still more technique and finesse, riding the legs. And I'm pretty quick. I'm more comfortable now when I'm in the neutral [standing] position, and it's a lot easier to pin people."

Said King: "He's got a natural ability and physical talent that makes him an outstanding wrestler. I don't think he knows how good he truly is."

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