Hash has Liberty wrestling on solid footing New tradition: In his fourth season as Lions coach, Jeff Hash has the program off to its best start in eight years.

January 07, 1996|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

Liberty wrestling coach Jeff Hash has reason to smile.

Part of it is the fact his Lions -- 8-3 -- are off to their best start in eight years. But that is only the beginning, the outside reward for four years of hard work toward building a foundation, something the Liberty program has never completely developed before.

What's on the inside is more pleasing to Hash.

"Everyone's upbeat, it's an immense difference from years past. This year's team has great morale and spirit," Hash said. "You walk into the practice room every day and your spirit is up because you see the wrestlers' spirits are up. It makes all the difference in the world. The kids are confident, it's caught fire."

It's something new at Liberty.

"One of the problems Liberty has had historically is if you look back through the '80s, you won't find a coach who was there for more than three years. The coaching philosophy was constantly changing," said South Carroll coach Peter Olson.

"Jeff has always had high expectations for his kids, and at first they were not willing to reach them. Now, he's been there and shown he's going to be around for a while and they think 'He's the man,' and it's going to be his way. They've responded to that."

In his first year as head coach in the 1992-93 season, Hash, a physical education and health teacher who was an above .500 wrestler in his high school days in North Carolina, had an assistant who had no wrestling background.

The next year he had one with wrestling experience, but the assistant didn't work in the school system and often missed practices and matches because of his outside work.

Until this year, Hash didn't teach at Liberty. Now, he teaches half the school day at the high school and the other at Sykesville Middle with his two-year assistant, Mike Flemming, teaching English at Liberty.

"It's a big advantage. Before we had no control throughout the school day. Now, the attitude has changed in the building and we've also been able to recruit from the hallway," Hash said.

Hash credits a strong cast of seniors for the team's success. They are quick to give credit back to Hash and Flemming.

"The coaches are doing a great job of leading the team and providing encouragement. We have a lot of seniors on the team with a strong desire to win and we realize the importance of this year for us and the program," said senior Scott Taylor.

"I see a lot of growth happening and a good tradition starting right now. We know they're going to be here a lot more years. They have the program solid now and all they have to do now is maintain that."

Taylor (13-1) is the top gun on the mat at 171 pounds. He was 12-0 before losing yesterday at Hammond and won a championship in the Damascus Tournament over the holiday. Rob Saylor, in the program all four years, is 8-7 at 152 and a team leader. Conor Gallagher, (11-5) a transfer from Buffalo last year, has settled in well. All three are team captains.

Said Saylor: "In four years I've been here, this has been the best team we've had and also the closest team. This is my first winning season and it's my senior year, so I just felt I had to go for it, put it on the line."

Two senior transfers -- Matt Rausch (13-3) from Randallstown and Paul Swenson (12-4) from Parkville -- have been major additions to go along with senior Kevin Jeffress (13-2 at 125), sophomore Mike Saylor (10-6 at 160), freshman Mark Richard (11-5 at 103) and senior Brandon Wagner (7-7 at 130).

"It's a great feeling having a winning record at this point in the season. It's something I haven't experienced yet as a head coach," Hash said. "It's exciting to watch them compete and make a contribution to Liberty."

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