Plitt: Gilman's growing boy Flexing muscles: Two years ago, Gregg Plitt wrestled at 145 pounds. Now he's ranked No. 1 in Maryland at 189.

January 25, 1996|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

Gilman wrestling coach Mark Harbold is a former Indiana state runner-up and was fourth in his conference at 134 pounds at Cornell University.

Three years ago, when Greg Plitt was a 130-pound freshman junior league state champ with a 36-0 record, Harbold, 35, might have been more than a match for the youngster.

But now, said Harbold, "I only go after him toward the end of practice, and then usually on takedowns."

The 6-foot-1 Plitt (14-0, nine pins) has grown into the Maryland State Wrestling Association's top-ranked 189-pounder. Plitt, who now sports broad shoulders and bulging biceps capable of bench-pressing 265 pounds, routinely goes through three and four practice partners in an afternoon.

"He's a very big boy, and other than [assistant coach] Rob Newsome, who weighs about 240, no one in the room can really challenge him," said Harbold, in his first season at No. 3 Gilman.

"Coming into 189, he's got the style of a lighter guy, which gives him an advantage. But he can also be a real beast and just crush you."

Plitt already has won tournaments at Annapolis and McDonogh, in the latter earning a 2-0 victory over All-Metro and defending 3A-4A state champ Joon Kim (Centennial). It was that win that enabled Plitt to take the state's top ranking.

"Beating Kim, I felt like I was the best, but I knew that would be a temporary feeling," said Plitt, who credits weightlifting and starting his own landscaping business last summer with helping to hone his legs. "I knew the next day that I'd have other guys coming after me the same way I went after Kim. You have to be ready, because it never ends."

It's hard to believe that just two years ago, Plitt was nearly 60 pounds lighter. He wrestled at 145 pounds during a sophomore season that was shortened by an injury to his scapula.

As a 171-pound junior, Plitt went 26-5, placing second in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association, third in the private schools state tournament, and fifth in the National Preps tournament.

Three of last year's losses were against McDonogh's state runner-up and National Prep runner-up Martius Harding, now a 177-pounder at the University of Virginia. And two of Plitt's wins last year -- one via the pin route -- were against John Carroll's Mike Babiak, who is unbeaten and ranked No. 4 at 189.

Plitt is known for wearing down opponents with his leg riding, a grinding technique that combines finesse, power and leverage. To keep opponents on the mat, or in the bottom referee's position, Plitt employs his legs to tie up his opponents' legs while his hands are free to work for the fall.

The technique is infrequently used among large wresters, who more often rely on explosiveness and power than on flexibility and balance.

Harbold said Plitt "likes winning, and he's into the physical aspect of everything -- weightlifting, wrestling," traits beneficial to military types. Which raises the issue of Plitt's future goal: to attend the U.S. Naval Academy.

"I want to be the best that I can be," said Plitt, who carries a 3.9 grade average at Gilman and has scored 1,090 on the Scholastic Assessment Test. "Eventually, I want to be a Navy Seal, and I've talked to a few of them.

"They say the mind is stronger than the body, and that's what I'm working toward. Being No. 1 in the state only goes as far as your next win. I want to be No. 1 in the mind, win or lose."

Plitt calls himself "his own worst enemy." Harbold says he "sometimes goes into a match wrestling like the smaller guy."

In the bout with Kim, "I was hesitant in spots," Plitt said. "Coach thinks I beat myself down too much. I guess it's because I'm still getting used to being this big."

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