Severna Park junior wrestler Jamie Kuch says he's primed for today's 3A-4A East Regional quarterfinal bout against North County's Richard Collins.
"Every year after the counties, I start to hit my peak," said Kuch, the state's No. 2-ranked 119-pounder.
That's been the scenario since Kuch's freshman season, when, after not placing in the counties, he had a pin for third place in the regionals.
In the first round of the state tournament, Kuch won his 23rd
match of the season, 15-11, over Wheaton senior Nelson Ochoa before being eliminated by two straight losses.
Kuch lost last year's county-title bout, 6-0, to Northeast's Marty Kusick, only to rebound a week later for the regional crown on two pins and a major decision.
After a technical fall and a pin in his first two state-title bouts, Kuch's semifinal opponent was Laurel's Danny Suite (30-0), who had pinned defending state champ Tim Novak (Frederick) in his previous bout.
Kuch eclipsed Suite, 8-5, only to become a state runner-up after a 10-5 setback against Quince Orchard's Josh Zinno.
"That loss still bothers me," said Kuch. "It's really motivating me this year."
His intensity was evident in the season-opening Annapolis Tournament, where he had two pins -- the first in just 36 seconds -- and a 13-0 title-bout victory over Mount St. Joseph's Dan Mattson, who was third in last weekend's Maryland Scholastic Association Tournament.
"When he puts his mind to it, he's a very explosive wrestler," said Old Mill coach Mike Hampe. "He can score a lot of points in a very short amount of time."
Kuch (18-5, nine pins) has three losses to Northeast's top-ranked defending 1A-2A state champ Mike Kusick (24-0), the latter by 5-1 for last week's county title.
Kuch was a runner-up to Kusick at both the Chesapeake and Broadneck tournaments, and also has a loss to Mike's defending state champion twin, Marty (112, 23-1).
"The Kusicks are the only ones who've stood in his way," said Severna Park coach Ralph Toomey. "He probably won't see his potential, even if he wins the states this year. I think his best will come next year."
A member of the Falcons' state champion gymnastics team last spring, Kuch was third in the pommel horse and among the top six in four more events.
"Gymnastics gives me strength, balance and coordination," Kuchsaid. "I'm kind of defensive on my feet. But on the mat, I put pressure on the other guy, going for the fall."
Kuch can avenge his fifth loss today against Collins, who won an earlier dual-meet bout by injury default after an illegal-hold call against Kuch.
Kuch's regional semifinal opponent should be either Old Mill's Shawn Radford or Broadneck's Todd Betz, who were third and fourth, respectively, in last week's counties. Kuch already has pinned Betz once and beaten Radford twice.
The other side of the regional brackets includes Baltimore City runner-up Millard West (Mervo), returning regional runner-up Matt Howard (Chesapeake), and Phil Meenan (Arundel), who two years ago was a regional champ and placed third in the states.
Kuch has pinned Howard and beaten Meenan by scores of 1-0 and 2-0.
Outside of the county, Kuch also has faced some of the state's best, including a 9-0 victory over Thomas Johnson's fifth-ranked Joey Ottinger, who was fourth in last year's state tournament.
Frederick's Lonnie Bane, an earlier 4-3 loser to Kuch, and Churchill's Nick Franzetti, an earlier 6-4 loser to Meenan, should challenge Ottinger in the 3A-4A West Region.
From the 3A-4A North, there is Baltimore County champ, Joe Catlin (Eastern Tech) and Baltimore County runner-up Steve Boothe (Perry Hall), who was fourth in last year's states. Also from the North Region is Howard's Hyon Kang, who placed fourth in Howard County and has a pin over Catlin.