Wilde Lake wrestler Mike Green's biggest challenge often is avoiding overconfidence. Sometimes he succeeds -- and sometimes he doesn't.
"Everybody I wrestle, I take it that they can beat me," said Green, tied with South River's Jaron Hairston for the Maryland State Wrestling Association's No. 6 spot at 171 pounds.
"Some wrestlers that are ranked, they let it get to their head that they can't be beat, that they're on top of the world," he said.
But it's tough for anyone of Green's stature to avoid complacency. One of his most open critics is senior teammate Nate Casella, the MSWA's sixth-ranked 189-pounder.
"He'll go into matches thinking he can win, and nine out of 10 times he can," Casella said. "But sometimes he doesn't go in mentally prepared unless the kid's real good. He'll say, 'Am I going to be lazy or will I whip his butt fast?' "
More times than not, Green, a junior, does the latter, and he's on par to match last year's achievements.
As a sophomore, Green's first full season on the mat, he took the local wrestling community by surprise, appearing out of the "woodwork," as Oakland Mills coach Steve Carnahan said.
After claiming Howard County and regional championships at 160 pounds, he lost to Owings Mills' Grant Johnson in the state semifinals and placed third. This season he has a 20-2 record (171) with 11 pins and is the prohibitive favorite to reclaim county and Class 2A-1A, Region III titles.
Most likely, Green will confront Hammond's Mac Goudy in the county championship at Atholton this weekend. Green won a major decision over Goudy, 9-1, earlier this season.
It's too early to predict who he'll meet in the states, but Wildecats coach Richard Jackson is hoping a Green-Johnson rematch doesn't come too early. Johnson is the MSWA's No. 1 171-pounder.
"I'm hoping it'll be in the finals, not the semis like last year," Jackson said. "If Mike had gotten past the semis [against another opponent], it would have been a different match against Johnson.
"But Johnson is a very good wrestler, and it's going to take a heck of a match out of Mike to beat that kid," Jackson said. "It depends on how bad Mike wants it . . . his conditioning when he gets there, his mental toughness."
Green's two losses this season happened in the Arundel and Douglass tournaments. He placed third in both tournaments. At Arundel, he was decisioned by Arundel's Greg Booth, the eventual tourney champion and the MSWA's No. 3 wrestler. Green was upset at Frederick Douglass (Prince George's), where unranked Greg Lawrence of Douglass pinned him in 1:55.
Casella used the shocker at Douglass to emphasize how "every match, [Green's] got to get his head into it."
"There are kids who are weak-minded who give up," said Casella. "But the decent wrestlers who work hard in practice and say, 'I can beat this kid,' that's when you get your tough matches and upsets."
Despite questioning Green for occasional laziness in practice, Jackson lauds Green for his quickness and balance. Green's most polished move is the duck-under series or single-leg takedown, in which he attacks the high side of an opponent's leg, sweeping him off the mat.
Green's and Casella's nearly automatic wins in dual meets afford Wilde Lake (10-3, 5-2) a comfort zone. For instance, in the Wildecats' most recent meet, a 35-28 thriller over Howard, the Lions held a 28-20 edge heading into Green's match. Green toyed with Frank Tortella until recording a 2:31 pin and Casella did likewise to Brad Stubbs at 3:04.
Green maintains a friendly wager with Casella on tallying the fastest pin. "If a pin comes, it comes," Green said. "I'm always looking for the pin, but I don't really force it."
Green senses an opponent is primed for a pin if "he's dragging, his head is down, he's not mentally into it. He could be breathing hard or out of shape; that's when I go," he said.
Sparring partners in practice, Green and Casella learn important wrestling techniques from one another.
"Mike has a lot going for him in having another ranked kid to work with everyday in the room," Oakland Mills' Carnahan said.