He's tough from mat to tee Strange combo: Lance Rhodes of Centennial excels in wrestling and golf -- sports that require unusual individual discipline.

February 23, 1996|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF

On first impression, some opponents size him up as a small, thin, easy-to-beat chihuahua. After wrestling him, they think they've tangled with a pit bull.

Centennial's Lance Rhodes didn't let appearances get in the way of his winning the 125-pound county championship Saturday.

The senior defeated Mount Hebron's Quint Lears, 10-4, to claim a title that had narrowly eluded him in two previous seasons when he finished second and third.

"His looks deceive you," Eagles' coach Todd DeCrispino said. "He looks small. But he's six minutes non-stop, and he wears opponents out. He has exceptional skills. His skills and aggressiveness set him apart."

Rhodes is deceptive in yet another way. Few would guess that a champion wrestler would also be the county's No. 1 golfer.

"It's an unusual combination," Rhodes said. "Wrestling is physically demanding; golf is not. In wrestling you have to let your emotions out to win sometimes; in golf you have to remain calm."

"But there's a mental aspect to both that goes hand-in-hand. In both sports you can't blame anyone else if you don't do well."

Rhodes, a two-year wrestling captain, is 17-2 this season, and 77-26 for his four-year career.

He hadn't lost a dual meet since his freshman year until Kenwood's Chuck Jones beat him in the region dual meet two weeks ago. Jones is ranked No. 5 in the state at 125 pounds.

"That was a rude awakening for me and got me pumped up [for the county tournament]," Rhodes said.

His only other loss was to No. 6-ranked 119-pound Maakan Taghizadeh of Gilman, 10-6.

Rhodes' most exciting win, other than the county final, was against Willie Harris of DeMatha during the 119-pound bout at the McDonogh Tournament. Rhodes came from behind to edge Harris, 7-6. Harris now is ranked No. 6 at 112.

Rhodes has wrestled at 125 pounds almost the entire season, but plans to drop to 119 for the regional tournament this weekend.

"I think I can do better there," he said. His goal is to win the regional title and place in the top four at the states.

He has enjoyed being part of a Centennial wrestling team that has produced its finest season in many years, going 10-3 overall and 6-1 in the league, and finishing second behind Hammond in the dual-meet standings.

"He's been a positive reinforcement for our younger wrestlers," DeCrispino said. "He assists them with his knowledge."

Rhodes comes from an athletic family. His father was a gym teacher, and his brother, Brian, plays lacrosse at Villanova, where he's rated the 20th-best faceoff man in the nation.

Lance played lacrosse seven years and soccer eight years, including two years for the Columbia Hornets travel soccer team. But he dropped those sports, as well as baseball, when he got to high school.

He wrestled with the Howard Hurricanes and the Columbia Cobras in seventh and eighth grades.

"Wrestling just seemed to be a natural for me. I picked it up fast," he said.

He has played golf since he was 6, first at Hobbit's Glen, and now at Cattail Creek. He's been a junior club champ five straight years -- three at Hobbit's Glen and two at Cattail.

He won the Middle Atlantic Junior Championship for 16-17-year-olds in 1994, and he finished second in the Prince George's Junior Championship last summer.

Centennial has won three straight county team golf titles, and he won the individual championship last fall. He finished fifth out of 120 at the regions, and has finished in the top 15 at the states two straight years.

Rhodes is also a scholar. He carries a 3.5 GPA and scored 1,270 on the Scholastic Assessment Test. He's looking at Notre Dame, Bucknell or Villanova to study business and hopefully make the golf team.

"I'll miss wrestling, so I'm trying to really enjoy these last two weeks," he said.

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