Jewer and Smiddy fortify Northeast in middle

January 25, 1994|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,Staff Writer

They're the middle men in No. 2 Northeast's lineup -- Matt Jewer handling the chores at 135 pounds and Steve Smiddy doing the same at 140.

Jewer, the pinner, is the slender one, standing 5 feet 9 1/2 with blond hair. Smiddy, with dark hair, stands only 5-7. A team captain for the second straight year, he's the more likely of the two to go the full six minutes of a match.

"Wrestling each other helped us improve to the point where we don't do it anymore," said Jewer.

Said Smiddy: "It got to where we knew each other so well, I'm better off only drilling with him."

An effective pair of 17-year-olds for the defending 1A-2A state champion Eagles (9-1), they have a combined 27-2 record, 16 pins and two technical falls.

"They're two completely different personalities, but they complement each other very well," said Northeast coach Al Kohlhafer, last year's Baltimore Sun Coach of the Year.

"Steve's the more outspoken of them, a good team leader whose likely to tell you what's on his mind," Kohlhafer said. "Matt's the hardest working kid we have, extremely mannerly, but so quiet, you might not even know he's around."

Jewer's statistics, however, speak volumes about his ability -- he's 14-1 with 10 pins and a technical fall. Jewer went 28-10 last year, placing second in the county, winning a regional title, and placing fourth in the state meet. He presently holds a No. 6 ranking by the Maryland State Wrestling Association.

"Last year, I was a light 135-pounder. I got a real slow start, but things started turning around at the end," said Jewer, who has a B average. "I did a lot of wrestling over the summer, but I didn't expect to be ranked this year."

Unlike many of his team members, including Smiddy, who began wrestling for the Pasadena Buccaneers when he was 7, Jewer got a relatively late start as an eighth grader.

"A lot of my friends, like Steve, were wrestling, and I'd never been involved in any other sport," said Jewer. "I did really well on the B Team, but when it came to tournaments, I always got beat."

Although he immediately made Northeast's varsity squad, Jewer struggled to maintain a record barely above .500 through his first two seasons.

However, one thing was apparent: He had a penchant for getting a pin.

"As a ninth- and 10th-grader, Matt either pinned or got pinned," said Kohlhafer, who credits assistants Billy Royer and Duane Talley for improving Jewer's strategical attack.

"His summer of wrestling has really improved him to the point where he's refined his technique. He's still a pinner, but now he's got some takedowns that are really nice."

Takedowns were a weakness for Smiddy last year, although his 28-6 record at 130 pounds included county and state tournament runner-up finishes sandwiched around a regional title.

"There's always room for improvement on your feet, and I felt I just needed to open up more -- just like in practice," said Smiddy, who was 25-5 as a sophomore, finishing third in the county.

"I spent a lot of time this summer working on my takedowns, so that when I get in tight spots, I don't freeze up."

Smiddy, ranked No. 2 by the MSWA, passed a huge test in last weekend's Arundel Tournament, winning a 4-3 decision over DeMatha's No. 4 Robert Alexander (21-3) on his second takedown of the match with 43 seconds left.

Alexander entered the bout with a 63-9 career record, including 48 pins and four technical falls. Exactly a year earlier, Alexander had taken just 26 seconds to pin Smiddy's teammate -- top-ranked state champ Mike Kusick for the Arundel Tournament title.

"Instead of waiting for him, like I used to, I was getting the first move on him every time," said Smiddy, who improved his record to 13-1 with six pins and a technical fall.

"Alexander had to worry more about whether or not I was going to put him on his back. It's about who's taking the match to who."

Smiddy and Jewer have one more thing in common: In their title bouts of the Dec. 18 Chesapeake Tournament, each suffered back-to-back losses against wrestlers from Mount St. Joseph on last-second moves.

Jewer led the Gaels' fifth-ranked Tyran Dungee, 3-2, when -- backing up for the first time in the match -- Jewer was surprised by Dungee's buzzer-beating takedown, good for a 4-3 win.

Smiddy's bout with the Gaels' top-ranked Paul Scott, tied at 4-4, seemed destined for overtime until Scott escaped with five seconds left to win, 5-4.

"I just got sloppy, but I learned a lot from that," Smiddy said. "Now everything comes down to that final week in March: My goal is to win a state title -- nothing else matters."

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