Trio of seniors pick up wrestling slack at Northeast Post-Kusicks era: Queer, Fleming and Marrow have helped the defending county champ Eagles win five of their past six dual meets. @

January 07, 1996|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

Northeast wrestling coach Al Kohlhafer is getting leadership from three seniors whose success he couldn't have fathomed three years ago.

Jay Queer was a Glen Burnie High freshman having limited success in the classroom and on the mat. T. R. Fleming, then a transfer from Owings Mills, was struggling to fit in. Chris Morrow was inconsistent.

Today, each is a leader for the two-time county tournament champion Eagles, and each is ranked by the Maryland State Wrestling Association. Morrow (135 pounds, six pins) and Queer (140, nine pins) are both 10-0, and Fleming (145) is 9-1. They are rated Nos. 6, 4 and 5, respectively, by the MSWA.

When the Kusick era ended last season with the graduation of Northeast's three-time state champion Kusick twins, Marty (112) and Mike (119), "It affected a lot," Queer said.

"We know Northeast couldn't place first, second and third in the state the last three years without everyone else. But since Northeast started its rebuilding with the Kusicks, some people felt like the program was going to go downhill without them."

And in the early part of the year, it appeared the skeptics were right. The Eagles finished third in the season-opening Meade Tournament, then lost a county match to traditional doormat Meade.

But since then, the Eagles (4-2, 2-1) have won five of their past six dual meets, including a victory over No. 11 South Carroll and a 37-36 setback against No. 5 Broadneck.

The Eagles face Broadneck again Tuesday in a tri-meet at South River, and Morrow and Fleming, voted team captains by their peers, will be leading the pre-match calisthenics.

"I try to be more of a leader, but it's hard when they're all my age," said Morrow, a returning third-place county and regional finisher who has rededicated himself in the classroom as well. "Usually I'm struggling with grades, but when you have a team and a coach relying on you, its different."

Fleming, a defending regional champ, has the added responsibility of being a role model to his younger brother, James, Northeast's 103-pound entry.

A solid student, Fleming takes honors pre-calculus and marine biology.

"Being picked team captain, it's kind of neat. And having my little brother on the team, being the oldest of four boys, I have to set a good example," Fleming said.

"Wrestling with James is no added pressure. But for him, I guess it's like when I was a sophomore. I was following everyone. I had people to look up to like [state runner-up] Steve Smiddy, [state runner-up] Matt Jewer, the Kusicks. I want to be like they were for me."

It's a huge tradition to uphold, since Kohlhafer, now assisted by Bill Royer, won the county's first state crown in 1975, and was again part of history when he and Old Mill's Mike Hampe won the 1A-2A and 3A-4A crowns, respectively, in 1993 to make Anne Arundel the first county to own both titles simultaneously.

Fleming, a senior regional champ, got spot duty as a sophomore when Morrow was injured. He responded by winning 14 varsity bouts and placing fifth in the regions. Among his major victories last year was a decision over eventual 3A-4A state champ Paul Hultgren (Old Mill).

Queer was county champ last year after being second as a sophomore. He also was third in the region and fourth in the states last year and credits wrestling for improving his attitude.

"If I would have stuck with baseball, basketball and the others I did in youth leagues, it wouldn't have been the same," said Queer. "I made honor roll this last time, and I'm going to try to go to college."

Said Morrow: "We all feel better about ourselves. We help each other out. We all respect each other, so it would be disrespectful to let the team down."

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