The first time freshman Jeremy Myers stepped on the wrestling mat at Messiah (Pa.) College last fall for a practice session, coach Neil Turner knew he had a potential Division III All-American and a possible national champion.
"As long as I've been in wrestling [31 years]," said Turner. "It was obvious this guy is a wrestler. In wrestling, you often get involved in a flurry, and Jeremy always moves the right way. That is very important. He loves competition, loves to train, likes the center stage and enjoys everything about the sport."
One of the reasons the former North Carroll High superstar (combined 60-2 record as a junior and senior) never has been turned off by the sport is that he seldom has to diet to make weight for matches.
"He's almost a natural 118-pounder," said Turner, who also uses Myers at 126. "He's not cutting a lot of weight."
It was only the first week of December in a tournament at Lebanon Valley that Myers made his presence felt in a big way in Middle Atlantic Conference circles.
He decisioned Muhlenberg's Pete Shimkin, 9-2, in the semifinals of the tournament before getting pinned in the championship round. But the disappointing fall in the finals didn't diminish the fact that Myers had beaten a veteran wrestler in the semis who had qualified for the NCAA Division III national championship tournament last year.
"That victory over Shimkin showed how Jeremy had made leaps and bounds in his improvement," said Turner. "It didn't surprise me. Nothing Jeremy does for us will surprise me. I said that after watching him practice the first time."
With barely half a season under his belt, Myers has advanced enough to post a 13-3 record at 118 and 126, helping Messiah get off to a surprising 7-1 start.
The Grantham, Pa., school, just south of Harrisburg, was 4-12 last season in Turner's second year on the scene after 28 years at the high school and collegiate level (11 seasons at Lock Haven and four at Clarion).
"It's a rebuilding program here," he said. "Messiah was fairly good in the 1970s when it was an NAIA school but fell off when it went to NCAA Division III in the '80s."
Two weeks ago, the rebuilding project continued to take shape in a quadrangular meet at Western Maryland College.
Messiah bounced the Green Terrors, 34-6, ran away from Johns Hopkins, 40-6, and handled Washington & Lee, 31-9.
Myers has been right in the middle of this big turnaround.
"The team's record has everybody up here talking about us and has created a lot of excitement at matches," said Myers. "We're a young team and should have a lot of good things happening in the future."
In regard to his 13-3 start, Myers said he has exceeded his expectations if not those of Turner.
"I thought I'd be around .500 this season," he said. "But I've been helped a lot every day by our assistant coach, Ken Whitsell, who works out with me. He wrestled at 118 at Lock Haven and he is familiar with all the things I have to do to win at 118."
Even though he has stepped up to the more action-filled world of collegiate wrestling, Myers still keeps in touch with the North Carroll Panthers.
"I come home fairly often," he said. "It's only about an hour's drive. North Carroll always has a chance to win a state title. Whether or not they do it this year for the first time is another story."
The Messiah lightweight is majoring in physical education and would like to coach wrestling.
With Dick Bauerlein talking about retiring at the end of this season after 19 splendid years at North Carroll, one of the most prestigious coaching positions in the state could be open too soon to help Myers.
"Being the North Carroll coach someday would be fine with me," he said.
But right now, Myers still has 3 1/2 seasons to throw people around on the mat and reach his goal of placing in the Division III nationals.