For Arundel's Chesla, wrestling is a real kick

January 08, 1995|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Sun Staff Writer

Mark Chesla was looking for another sport to sustain his athletic urge going into Arundel High when he discovered wrestling.

Until then, his primary passion was soccer, although he had dabbled in swimming and basketball as well. It wasn't until eighth grade that he joined the Crofton recreation wrestling program and found the sport that could well send him to college on a scholarship.

"He was afraid to go into high school with only one sport," said his father, Lou Chesla, "in case he didn't make the team."

As it turned out, there was little danger of that. Last season, only three years after he plunged into wrestling, Chesla won the county, regional and Class 3A-4A state championships at 152 pounds.

"I wanted to experience something new," Chesla said. "I had heard of the sport and knew a few guys who did it. I saw a few matches. It looked neat. Soccer had been my whole life."

Although he took a few beatings at first, Chesla learned quickly and absorbed Arundel coach Buddy Hepfer's instructions.

"It was a rude awakening, but he stayed with it," his father said. "In eighth grade, he was second in the county rec league at 120 pounds. Once Mark got to ninth grade, Buddy helped keep his chin up."

Chesla's rise was rapid. He was 6-9 and sixth in the county at 130 as a freshman and 18-6 and fourth in the county at 140 as a sophomore before going 30-4 in attaining the heights last season.

"Mark is pretty much self-motivated," Hepfer said, noting that Chesla often rises at 5 a.m. and runs two or three miles and sometimes runs at night as well. "He does more than most kids do, although maybe not more than most state champs."

By any standard, Chesla's rise in wrestling has been meteoric. Most successful high school wrestlers come through feeder programs; Chesla had a mere half-year in the Crofton program.

"We had a kid who graduated two years ago, Greg Booth, who started wrestling in ninth grade and wound up winning the states," Hepfer said. "But kids like Greg and Mark are few and far between."

After pins against McDonogh and Poly in a tri-meet Wednesday night, Chesla is 14-1, including eight first-period pins, four in the second period and two decisions. His lone loss was to Old Mill's Mike DiLeonardi on Dec. 22, in his first match at 152 after opening the season at 160. He has won the Meade Invitational and the Arundel Holiday tournaments.

From the outset, Chesla has set high goals. After his freshman year, he vowed never to get pinned again and trained obsessively all summer in an attempt to achieve the goal.

He hasn't been pinned since.

He is a typical overachiever: He has a 3.3 grade-point average and is a National Honor Society member.

Chesla also played soccer at Arundel, or at least he did until the fourth game of last season when a broken foot ended his career. It'll be wrestling only in college. He has been accepted by Maryland, applied to Bloomsburg and has talked to Virginia, Virginia Tech, Messiah and Western Maryland.

What kind of college wrestler will Chesla make? Hepfer is reluctant to make a prediction.

"It's a tough adjustment for anyone," Hepfer said. "Going from high school state champion to college, a kid might not even make the traveling team. Like any kid coming from high school, Mark will have to change his style because the emphasis in college is on takedowns and working on your feet."

But that is months off. Chesla's immediate goal is a successful defense of his state title.

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