It took Kevin Barnaba two weekend tournaments in December to get rid of much of the wrestling rust that had accumulated during the previous year.
Barnaba had gone 16-9 at 135 pounds as a Fallston High School sophomore and was poised to be one of the top wrestlers in Harford County.
In fall 1991, however, he fell and broke his collarbone. He recovered to wrestle four matches at the start of the season, but he broke the same collarbone in the fourth match and was through for the season.
"The year off really hurt me," said Barnaba, now a senior 145-pounder. "Competitively, I was rusty, and I had no endurance."
In the opening weeks of this season, he wrestled in tournaments at North East and Perryville, losing four of his six matches. Since then, he has gone 15-2, losing a tournament match and a dual match against Aberdeen's Kit Doran, a 140-pounder who moved up a class.
"In three of those four early losses, I ran out of gas in the third period," Barnaba said. "It was ironic, because when I was a sophomore, endurance was my big thing. And, I think you get in the best condition by actually wrestling. Running and weightlifting are OK, but I'd rather get my work on the mat."
Barnaba, who got into wrestling when his older brother, Brian, started wrestling for Fallston several years ago, added, "I had a year in a recreation program when I was a freshman, then moved up to the varsity the next year."
Andy Amasia, in his first year as head coach after serving as an assistant to John Conley the previous two seasons, said Barnaba's strong points are his takedowns and working from the bottom position.
"I'm 5-11 and I think my height and long arms give me an advantage," Barnaba said.
He is one of the team's three senior captains and, in the words of his coach, "by far the most dedicated of the three."
nTC The others are Max Dodd, 152 pounds and Tommy Brazier, 119.
Dodd, Fallston's second champion when he won the 152-pound county title last year (he was second in the region) has an 18-4 record this year. Three of the losses were in tournament finals, and the other was in a dual meet against Aberdeen's Chad Gurrera, the only county wrestler to beat him.
Brazier, second in the county meet two years ago and third last year, was 4-3 in the early going this year, but has come on strong to win 13 of his last 14 matches. The only setback in that span was in the final of the Friends tournament, his second final-round tournament defeat of the season.
All three were in the county meet, which concluded last night at Havre de Grace, and will return to action this weekend at the Class 1A-2A regional tournament at Fallston.