Garfield Thompson says he had been pondering The Decision since wrestling season ended with the state tournament last March.
"Some coaches have said I can be the city's first state champ, but everyone knows me for track and running, and that's what I'm best at -- but I like wrestling," said Thompson.
Thompson, Mervo's junior defending city and regional 119-pound champ, began participating in organized track in his native Jamaica at age 8.
For the second straight winter, Thompson has decided to forgo indoor track for wrestling, "but he may go the other way next year," said Mervo wrestling coach Dwight Warren. "There was no pressure from me, but there was from the kids. They really went after him."
So when Mervo visits Division I city rival Southwestern (1-0) today, Thompson and regional champion teammate Millard West will be ready to take to the mats.
"I'm glad he came out, because he's an inspiration. Watching him take that extra step makes you want to," said West, a 125-pounder whose 24-7 record of a year ago included being city runner-up. "It's an intense competition when we wrestle."
The dilemma began for Thompson last year, when the city offered indoor track for the first time. Thompson, an All-Metro standout in the 800 meters outdoors, already had a year of wrestling under his belt and was geared up for another successful season.
"I was always looking to see what was going on with the indoor track team," said Thompson, a 4.0 student who also runs cross country. "I knew it would be a tougher decision this year."
It came down to a coin flip, which wound up favoring track.
"That's what he told me this summer," said track coach Fred Hendricks, a former high school and college wrestler. "Being a wrestling referee, I've seen talent. Garfield's good. But all the letters I get for him are in track."
And after helping Mervo win the outdoor 4A state track title, another record-breaking summer with Ed Waters' track club, and his third cross country season at Mervo, Thompson weighed the merits of continuing to run.
"Here's a very nice kid who was torn. I hated to see him that way," Hendricks said, "so I told him, 'Make the decision that's best for you, not me or anyone else.' I think he made the right one."
Thompson said, "Both coaches have really supported me through the entire process."
Last winter, Thompson and West became Mervo's second and third regional champs, joining former 125-pound teammate McAnthony Thompson (no relation), who a year earlier placed third at the states.
In his regional title bout, Garfield Thompson escaped with two seconds left for a 5-4 decision over Queen Anne's Jamie Sasse. Sasse entered their match at 24-2 and was coming off a victory over Arundel's eventual state champ Phil Schliefer, who placed third in the region.
West used five takedowns to win his title, 14-8, over Broadneck's James Donner. Donner had edged Southwestern's Ronnie Powell -- a wrestler who beat West for the city crown a week earlier but was third in the region.
Thompson went 2-2 at states, losing to the eventual runner-up and to the third-place finisher. West went 1-2, also losing to the eventual third-place finisher.
"We came close last year, but we weren't used to all of the hype," West said. "But together, maybe we can do better. Maybe one or both of us can win."