Plienis a National High School champ McDonogh heavyweight is fourth from state to achieve honor

April 02, 1996|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

McDonogh heavyweight wrestler J. R. Plienis, 17, edged South Carolina state champ Nick DiBenedetto, 3-2, to become Maryland's fourth-ever National High School champion at Duquesne University Sunday night.

The 230-pound Plienis, The Baltimore Sun's 1995-96 All-Metro Wrestler of the Year, also became the nation's No. 1-ranked heavyweight with the victory since DiBenedetto had entered the title bout having pinned North Dakota's previously No. 1-ranked Scott Owens in the semifinal.

"I was ranked No. 2," said Plienis, who has accepted a full wrestling scholarship to the University of Nebraska. "Now, I'm No. 1."

Plienis (128-11 career) entered the tournament with a 31-0 record and 25 first-period pins. After getting his 26th and 27th first-period pins over Nick Kriger and David Gross, state champs from Massachussetts and Maine, respectively, "I had to go the full six minutes against four more state champs."

During his third bout, a physical 9-7 victory over Connecticut state champ James Thomas, Plienis twice was thrown into the scorer's table -- once breaking the arm of a statistician -- and received a long gash across his forehead. The two-time National Prep champ then outlasted Pennsylvania's Sean Boyle, 11-7, and New Jersey's Anthony Casciano, 13-7.

"I was definitely pumped up after beating Thomas, and wasn't going to let anyone beat me," Plienis said. "This was the toughest tournament I've ever been associated with."

Mount St. Joseph's All-Metro Tyran Dungee (145, eighth) and Queen Anne's state champ John Waters (103, fifth) joined Plienis in earning All-American honors for being among the top eight finshers. Maryland finished sixth in the team standings.

Northeast's Marty Kusick (1995), Southwestern's Walter Reed (1992) and Curley's Gene Curran (1991) were the state's past National High School champs.

Pub Date: 4/02/96

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