Don't mess with Zac.
That is rule No. 1 around Francis Scott Key High School.
It's not that Zac Yinger is a bully or likes to beat up on people.
It's that he has nicknames such as "Stinger" and "The Animal," commands respect with a stoic-like presence, has not been beaten in 12 bouts for the No. 2 Key wrestling team, and won a state 145-pound championship for the Eagles last year.
In fact, Yinger is rarely in a bad mood even though he gives up his weekends to concentrate on training and making weight in the 152-pound class, where he is ranked No. 1 in the state.
"A lot of weekends, people are out partying while I'm working out and running," said Yinger. "But it's worth it. It keeps me out of trouble. You can't go through life all the time acting like it's a big joke."
This dedication has placed Yinger in an enviable position for his future.
The University of Virginia has contacted him about the possibility of wrestling in the ACC, and he will be courted by several other schools for his talent on the mat.
"There are a lot of real good schools out there, but I'm not sure what I want to do yet," said Yinger. "I know I'll have to make some kind of decision soon."
For now, he is content to be mowing down opponents and hopes to help lead Key to a dual-match victory over fifth-ranked North Carroll on Feb. 1, the Carroll County tournament championship Feb. 11 and a state tournament title.
If Key wins in the Carroll County tournament, the Eagles would end a run of eight straight and 11 of the past 12 by North Carroll.
Yinger and Key have been wrestling in the shadow of North Carroll the past several years, and they started this season ranked one notch (No. 5) behind the Panthers (No. 4) in the Baltimore metro area.
But the Eagles began to soar Dec. 27 when they beat then-No. 2 Old Mill to win the 27th eight-team Christmas tournament at Key.
Yinger pinned Old Mill's Mike Hines in 2:08 to win the 152-pound championship in the Key tourney. Hines was 11-1 entering the bout.
"Beating Old Mill gave us the recognition we deserved," said Yinger, who has wrestled year-round since the sixth grade except for a break each fall to play soccer for Key. "I gave up baseball in the sixth grade but not soccer. Wrestling is the most exciting sport."
Other Yinger victims this season include Mount St. Joseph's Tyran Dungee (7-2 decision) and DeMatha's Matt Allman (5-1 decision). He beat Dungee (ranked No. 4 in the state) and Allman (No. 3 in the state) on the same night in the semifinals and the finals, respectively, of the Annapolis tournament.
"Those two wins have to be the highlight of the season for me," said Yinger.
Key coach Bill Hyson, who gave Yinger the "Stinger" nickname, said the victory over Dungee was kind of surprising because Yinger was wrestling only his second bout of the season.
"We opened our season in the Annapolis tournament, and Zac received a bye in the opening round and had only wrestled in the quarters before he had to face Dungee," said Hyson. "But Zac is a strong technician, has a high intensity level, and has improved his physical strength through our weight program."
Yinger said he is to the point of his high school career where "I go into every match thinking I can win."
However, there was a day more than three years ago when the now-accomplished wrestler "was scared."
"It was my freshman year and it was a big step up to the varsity from the junior leagues," he said. "I never really felt good about myself that year until I wrestled [North Carroll standout] Andy Rill in the county tournament and lost 7-6 in the finals [130 pounds]."
Like many high school wrestlers in the county, Yinger credits Steve Hoff (three-time state champion from Westminster High who now coaches in the Key junior league) with teaching him a lot.
"I had some talent but I needed to learn technique," said Yinger. "Six guys on our team have come through Steve's program. Also, I have been helped by Randy [Owings, Key teammate who is a two-time state champion]. Randy has been wrestling longer than me and he used to whip me pretty badly. I looked up to him all through junior league."
If Owings, a senior, wins his third state title this season, he will join Hoff as the only three-time state champions from Carroll County.
Yinger obviously has learned from two of the best.