The pleasure is all Eldridge's

January 14, 1994|By Chuck Acquisto | Chuck Acquisto,Contributing Writer

Howard High wrestling coach Fred Bullock noticed a significant attitude difference this season in Seth Eldridge from the moment the Lions senior wrestler stepped onto the mat for his first match.

"More than anything else, what Seth has done this year for himself and the team is have fun," Bullock said. "He shows my young kids how to have fun out there on the mat. That's something the young guys are still working on to avoid getting tense in crucial matches."

Fourteen matches later, Eldridge is still having lots of fun as he remains unbeaten at 14-0 (13 pins) and ranked fifth in the state at 171 pounds, along with Catoctin's Shane Tiffany and Damascus' Tom Horwat, by the Maryland State Wrestling Association.

Bullock and Eldridge, who has wrestled varsity for four years, believe a key contributor to Eldridge's mat success and enjoyment has been his ability to wrestle at his natural weight.

"I weigh right around 172 or 173 pounds, so I'm fortunate that I found a weight class where I didn't have to cut weight and I knew I could win. That really helps psychologically," said Eldridge, who wrestled at 160 a year ago and finished fourth in the county and regional tournaments as he posted 27 wins.

"However, I didn't have a lot of pins a year ago, as I got most of my wins on points," said Eldridge, whose 6-2 team has lost difficult matches to Oakland Mills and South Carroll.

Eldridge is quick to single out junior teammate Eric Paskin as a major reason for his outstanding record.

"Eric came back from the summer with a lot of wrestling experience that has really helped me get into winning pin positions this year," Eldridge said. "He's really picked up the level of this team. If anybody has a question on technique or position, they can rely on Eric, as well as Coach Bullock."

Paskin, who is also unbeaten at 14-0 in the 145-pound class, has benefited from his hard summer work at wrestling and a drop from the 171-pound class that he was thrown into last year as a sophomore when he bounced back and forth between junior varsity and varsity.

"Now that I'm back down to my own weight, I feel a lot more confident and relaxed," said Paskin, who wrestled this summer for the Damascus Freestyle Club and made the Maryland Junior National team that traveled to Fargo, N.D., for a tournament.

Bullock said that Paskin is the most improved wrestler he has seen in the county.

"The moves he tried to throw a year ago that didn't quite make it are being made now. There's no question his summer made a huge difference," Bullock said.

"It was a tough summer because I wrestled a lot of state champs and really got pounded," said Paskin, who wrestled at 143 during the summer. "But I got much better because of it."

Paskin said he has known Eldridge since middle school and considers the Lions' senior leader as his big brother. Eldridge said Paskin's wrestling confidence has rubbed off on him.

Eldridge's unbeaten start also had Bullock's help. After completing an All-County football season for the Lions' county champion and Class 3A playoff team as a defensive lineman (10 sacks, three fumble recoveries), a banged-up Eldridge was given a few days off to heal by Bullock before he joined his teammates on the practice wrestling mat.

"Coach was real understanding from just his own playing experience and I showed up to practice just mainly to talk with him and my teammates," Eldridge said.

Bullock does not believe Eldridge has been really tested so far this season, a matter that concerned both coach and wrestler heading into yesterday's 63-10 victory over Atholton.

Eldridge was expected to face a stiff challenge from Atholton's Matt Radik last night. He did have to go three periods for the first time this season, but still came away with a 14-4 superior decision.

Perhaps Eldridge's biggest in-county test might come from Wilde Lake senior Mike Green, a two-time county and regional champion whom Eldridge knows well from having zeroed in on the Wildecats' running back on the football field the past two seasons.

"Green has a reputation of being a tough wrestler because of his combination of quickness and strength," said Eldridge, who will wrestle with Green on Feb. 1 at Howard. "Unfortunately, heading into the county [schedule] without being tested makes it difficult to know where you are at on the mat."

Fortunately for Eldridge, Green, as well as a county-leading Hammond (Feb. 7), await at the end of the county regular season for the Lions.

"It's a great situation with them at the end to give me something to get excited about," Eldridge said. "At this point, Howard has as much a legitimate shot as anyone else for the county title."

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