Roots Of Success

January 20, 1995|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Sun Staff Writer

Eight miles down Solomons Island Road from Southern High, in the tiny village of Cumberstone, is where it all began.

That's where a wrestling family was spawned. That's where Tyrone Neal Sr. was born and raised. One by one, family members fortified Southern wrestling.

Tyrone Sr. was first, followed a generation later by his oldest son, Sherrard, then a nephew, Tromaine Graves, then Tyrone Jr.

There might have been more, except that Tyrone Sr.'s other children are girls -- Tyra, a senior basketball player, and Tiffany, a freshman who's playing soccer, basketball and track.

Tyrone Sr., a lieutenant at the Baltimore City Correction Center who's also Southern's coach, began wrestling in ninth grade at old Southern High of Lothian.

"There was no developmental junior league back then," Neal said. "It was just a bunch of hard-nosed kids, fighting for what they could get."

Neal got a lot, winning two state championships at 145 pounds, the last in 1971. He wrestled for two years at Montgomery-Rockville College, reaching the junior college nationals both times, and two at Maryland, where he won two Atlantic Coast Conference titles at 158. His highest finish in the NCAA tournament was seventh in 1975.

Neal was coaching in a junior league and at nearby South River High when Sherrard and Tyrone Jr. began wrestling.

"They were hesitant at first, so I didn't push them, just guided them," Neal said. "I still had a hunger for wrestling. It was like a dream come true, having two boys wrestling."

Tyrone Jr. said he "loved it right away, before I was heavy enough to wrestle in the lightest weight class." He was all of 40 pounds.

Sherrard won the county championship at 142 as a senior and now has a 6-4 record at 142 at Navy.

Graves was fourth in the state at 189 as a junior last year and Tyrone Jr. was second in the state at 119 as a freshman and won at 125 last season.

Going into this weekend's tournament at South River, Tyrone Jr. is 16-0 (11 pins) and Graves is 12-3 (10 pins).

"Tyrone has learned to keep his composure this year, even when he's behind," Tyrone Sr. said, noting that his son had 6 1/2 years on junior league mats before ninth grade.

"The other coaches have noticed it, too. He's learned a lot about himself. As I watch him take control in a match, I don't have heart attacks anymore."

Armed with a 3.0 grade-point average, Tyrone Jr. hopes to follow Sherrard to Navy. He noticed how the combination of academics and wrestling helped get his brother into the academy.

"All those parties at other colleges aren't for me, man," said Tyrone Jr.

His goal is to become a four-time regional and three-time state champion. How? "Just don't lose," he said.

Tyrone Sr. is in his sixth season at Southern, after 10 years at South River. He winced year after year as his South River teams regularly drubbed Southern.

"It hurt so bad that I used to come here and tell the kids we beat what they did wrong," Tyrone Sr. said.

When the Southern job opened up, he understandably jumped at it.

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