Sparrows Point's Free keeps success in family Going for two: Pointers' Tommy Free is in pursuit of a second state wrestling title to match his uncle, Overlea coach Bruce Malinowski.

January 17, 1996|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

Sparrows Point wrestler Tommy Free admires his uncle, Overlea coach Bruce Malinowski. He strives to emulate Malinowski's past accomplishments, such as twice being a state champ at Kenwood.

But when you're Tommy Free, an All-Metro, defending state champ, and the Maryland State Wrestling Association's No. 2-ranked 125-pounder, every opponent wants some kind of edge. That's why Free wouldn't let Malinowski borrow a videotape before this weekend's Overlea Tournament.

"It [the video] is one of my toughest matches this year. He might have been trying to scout me," said Free, whose stepfather, Tony Malinowski, was a teammate of younger brother Bruce in high school. "But since I might drop to 119 and wrestle [Overlea's No. 6] Cory Scott this weekend, I want to hang onto it."

Saturday's 18-team tournament should have a family flavor: Bruce Malinowski runs it. Two of his nephews, a niece and one of his six brothers -- five of whom wrestled -- will assist in various capacities. Afterward, a hot topic no doubt will be the Free-Scott matchup.

"We're going to try and beat him, I'm paid to do that," said Bruce Malinowski, whose wrestler, Scott, was a 112-pound county and region runner-up last year to Gary Maynor, Free's former teammate. "Tommy and Cory wrestled a close match once. This shouldn't be any different."

In Free, Malinowski and Scott face a wrestler whose career record (58-2) includes last year's 33-0 mark, 34 pins and three technical falls. His coach is Bob Crandell, who spent 18 seasons in the Dundalk Hawks' junior-league program before taking over at Sparrows Point this year -- Crandell's first high school post.

Crandell coached former All-Metro Gene Curran (Curley), the 1990 Baltimore Sun Wrestler of the Year and National High School champ.

Free began with Crandell at age 5, and later won three junior-league state titles. Free was 19-0 as an Edgewood High freshman, having won the Harford County and regional crowns, when he lost his first high school state title bid, 2-1, to Oakland Mills' Juri Freeman on a third-period reversal.

Last year, Free won the county, regional and state crowns, the latter, by 4-2 over former junior-league rival Davey Blake of Kent (31-1, 24 pins). Blake ranks No. 2 at 112 presently.

"That was a big match for him, because he and Davey had some battles in junior leagues, but Tommy wasn't his best," said Crandell. "Tommy's speed can put him head-and-shoulders above most kids. He's a tenacious pinner, a machine."

Crandell said Free, an A student, "has been clock-watching" too often this season, "giving tough opponents too much respect and sitting on leads." An example was a 3-2 decision of Kenwood's No. 5 Chuck Jones for the Hereford Tournament title.

"Jones is good, but I was also too worried about re-living my worst nightmare, my loss as a freshman," said Free, who redeemed himself two weeks later by moving up to 130 and pinning Lansdowne's then-No. 5 Grant Ohler after leading, 9-1.

"I showed more quickness in using my low single, and that I can win at a weight higher than 103," said Free, whose other career loss came on a default due to illness. "I was concerned about facing a weight and strength disadvantage, but Ohler was a good challenge."

Free gets a similar workout in practice from teammate Mike Young (6-0, five pins), who is ranked No. 1 at 130. Young, who will compete at 125 this weekend, was a two-time state champ in the junior leagues, and as a freshman, third in the county, first in the region and fourth in the states. He was 28-5 last year.

"Tommy's been my practice partner since we were about 7, and we're a pretty even match," said Young, also a Dundalk Hawks' product. "Hopefully, we can help each other all the way to the states."

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