Wrestling turns Overton's life around Owings Mills senior uses sport to give him direction

February 16, 1993|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,Staff Writer

Ed Overton stopped wrestling against a lifestyle that brought him to his knees and began wrestling for high school glory.

And Overton's enthusiasm for wrestling "may be saving his life," said a friend, Cornell Bass.

"I was into the street real heavy at one time, doing my own thing, selling drugs and whatnot," said Overton, a 189-pounder at Owings Mills who transferred from Carver.

His mother, Sadie Roane, a woman of strong religious principles, tried unsuccessfully to lure her child from the streets.

Among his first acts of rebellion came when he was 12. He got gold caps on two of his teeth "because it was the hip thing to do." As Overton grew older, his habits became increasingly intolerable to his mother, who put him out before he turned 18.

"I was angry at first, but now we communicate regularly. . . . Her kicking me out was the best thing for me," said Overton, who turned 19 Nov. 4. "The gold caps are positive symbols that life is what you make it."

He has 18-inch biceps and can bench-press 400 pounds. He can dead-lift more than 500. Yet he disdains the term "muscular."

He'd rather be called a finesse wrestler despite the bruising power and forceful technique that has flattened 14 of 28 opponents. His only loss, 1-0, came against Loyola's No. 2-ranked Dave Daniecki.

"He's the most powerful guy I've ever wrestled," said Overton's top-ranked teammate, Grant Johnson (171), a two-time state champion.

"When he lost to Daniecki, he was still good-natured," said his coach, Guy Pritzker, of his No. 3-ranked 189-pounder. "He loves working hard and makes no excuses."

Overton's biggest victory so far -- a second-period pin of Riverdale Baptist's then-No. 2-ranked Marcus Foran -- added the Gilman Duals title to those from Herford and Friends.

His potential, says Bass, a college recruiter liaison, "can buy him a ticket to a major college program." But he'll take his 2.5 grade-point average to national junior college champ Garden City (Kan.) Community College for an extra period of growth.

"Coming from where he did, he was a real underdog. But he's got the best personality," said Mount St. Joseph's No. 2-ranked Kevin Neville (171), who worked out with Overton during the summer at the McDonogh School's Northwest Wrestling Club as a member of Maryland's national team.

"If he keeps improving," said Neville, "he's going to beat [Smithsburg's two-time, 2A-1A state champion] Chris Kretsinger."

A year ago, as a junior at Carver, however, it seemed Overton's life was going nowhere.

Overton left his mother to live with a woman he called his aunt but who was not related. She soon moved out of state, leaving him homeless.

Overton did not attempt to move back with Roane. Instead, "he was hanging in parts of Baltimore where lots of people were getting killed," said Bass.

Overton stayed in school enough to compile a 14-0 record (nine pins) and led Carver to the Maryland Scholastic Association C Conference title.

At season's end, Overton said, "I started getting into trouble."

He gravitated to the people at the NWC, like two-time state champions Johnson, Mike Jenson (Randallstown) and Monte Spencer (Oakland Mills), who trained twice weekly in the spring for summer national competitions.

"Ed's the kind of person who is a good listener when he wants something badly," said Johnson. "He's got a knack for picking up the intricacies."

But what he wanted most was an escape from his environment, and Bass, the NWC director, gave him that.

"He kept asking me if he could come live with us," said Bass, referring to he and his wife, Sabrina. "He wanted to turn his life around. At first, I was skeptical, but the way he broke it down was something hard to do for a guy of his macho background. But he was in despair."

After establishing residence with Bass in Owings Mills, Overton made the national team and dedicated himself to his training. He dropped a 6-5 decision to Foran, a former National Prep champ, and later nearly beat Kretsinger.

"Ed epitomizes what the sport [wrestling] tries to accomplish," said Haswell Franklin, chairman of the Maryland State Wrestling Association. "In his challenging background, there was obviously someone who taught him the principles he's now using."

"My mother did a lot of praying for me," said Overton. "She's a good lady."

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