S. Carroll's McKennie relishes wrestling under heavy pressure

January 29, 1995|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,Sun Staff Writer

So what's it like being South Carroll's heavyweight this season?

"Nerve-racking and tough," senior Dan McKennie was quick to say.

Would he have it any other way?

"Oh, no. I love it like this," he said.

Different heavyweights do different things while the 12 previous weight classes are taking place. The 240-pound McKennie usually walks around behind his team's row of chairs, keeping loose and trying to get himself focused. Butterflies often accompany the journey.

More times than not, the match already has been decided by the time the heavyweights take to the mat. When it's not, the entire outcome falls on their shoulders.

A year ago, McKennie needed a major decision win against his Westminster opponent to give the Cavaliers the team win. He got just that. It was the only time all season that he was called upon to settle an outcome.

This season has been a different story. Four times already it's come down to McKennie, including all three of the Cavs' county matches in the past three weeks. He has seen both sides of the coin -- winning and losing. Fortunately for him and the No. 8 Cavs (11-1), more of the first.

The latest drama came Tuesday in Uniontown when the Cavaliers stunned No. 2 and previously unbeaten Francis Scott Key.

Charlie Conaway, Steve Yokay and Mike Chenoweth set the table with pins in the three previous classes to get the Cavaliers even with Key at 31.

"I was sitting there watching the match and thinking 'Here we go again.' They deserve the credit by giving me the chance to get us the win," McKennie said shortly after the match.

McKennie needed 1:20 to pin Key's John Frech and give the Cavaliers the win.

He knew exactly how Frech felt. It was just a couple of Thursdays ago that McKennie was pinned by North Carroll's Bill Beltz -- with 28 seconds left -- to give the Panthers a two-point win. Afterward, he was physically and mentally exhausted, and devastated.

"That was a terrible feeling. After, I had it in my mind I would never let it happen again," McKennie said.

McKennie is 11-6 overall and has won three of the four bouts that have decided South Carroll's fate. The first came against Hammond when his opponent had to retire after running out of injury time.

Next was the county opener against Westminster with the Cavaliers down by five and needing a pin. McKennie provided it with 13 seconds left in the final period.

South Carroll coach Pete Olson says the sport of wrestling is much more of a team sport than some people think.

"It's just you, your opponent and the referee out there, but each guy pulls points together and that's where the team concept comes in," he said.

"Most matches won't come down to the heavyweight class in deciding the team score. Of late, the competition we're wrestling is so tough, every match has been crucial. The heavyweight is the anchor."

Olson believes three qualities make a good heavyweight. He said McKennie has developed all three.

"I like a guy who has good emotional control, someone who doesn't get so pumped up he gets caught and finds himself on his back; a kid with confidence, and he has that -- he's really gotten tough -- and ability," Olson said. "He's proved he can do it. He's beaten some good wrestlers, and even in losing he wrestled with quality."

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