Terps' Guzzio rides strong finishes to undefeated season, No. 8 ranking At 33-0, he vows no letup as ACC tournament opens

March 08, 1997|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

Of the many victories by Maryland's Jim Guzzio this season, perhaps the one that said the most about him was his come-from-behind, 4-3 decision over league rival Jason Mutarelli Virginia.

Tied at 2-2 with Mutarelli, a former Atlantic Coast Conference champion, Guzzio showed his confidence by choosing the top referee's position to start the last of the match's three periods. From there, he controlled Mutarelli, nearly turning him several times for near-fall points, en route to earning enough riding time for the decision.

"My comfort zone is when I'm on top, because if I can ride the guy for an entire period, I know I'm going to have him right where I want him," said Guzzio, a 22-year-old senior. "I'm going to be using the power-half [nelson]; tying him up with my legs. I'm just going to be beating on him the whole time."

At 33-0, with 10 pins, a technical fall, seven major decisions and three overtime bouts, Guzzio is ranked No. 8 in the nation by Amateur Wrestling News -- which rates the country's top 12 college wrestlers in each weight class.

He also has established a school record for consecutive victories in a season.

Called "a vicious punisher" by John McHugh, who's in his 18th year as the Terps' coach, Guzzio enters today's ACC tournament at N.C. State not only as the defending 134-pound champion, but also as the league's only undefeated wrestler.

Not long ago, however, Guzzio recalls being on the other end of the spectrum.

As a freshman and sophomore, he went 12-9 and 15-16, respectively. But after turning things around during a confidence-boosting, redshirt 19-4 season, Guzzio went 36-8 last year as a junior and earned co-Outstanding Wrestler honors in the ACC tournament.

And now, it seems, the former two-time state champion for Connecticut's Daniel Hand High is bent on earning All-America status.

"I've put a lot of work into this season," said Guzzio, who three times this season has been named ACC Wrestler of the Week.

"At this level, you have to do whatever's possible to stay sharp and motivated, because there are so many tough guys out there. Every match can be nip-and-tuck. There just can't be any letup."

Guzzio went 1-2 in last year's NCAA tournament, including a 7-5 loss to eighth-place finisher Frank Laconne of Purdue. The top eight finishers in the NCAA tournament become All-Americans.

Guzzio lists as his top league opponents Mutarelli, North Carolina's Jason Lamotta and North Carolina State's Jelani Chase. He has beaten Lamotta by a point and Chase by 8-0, but he's far from overconfident.

"Guys are always up, emotionally, when they're wrestling me," Guzzio said. "My mind-set is they're going to have to wrestle the match of their lives to beat me.

"Even though I'm undefeated, I'm not conservative at all. I'm DTC always going for the fall, taking risks, pressing my advantage. I feel that because of my intensity and conditioning -- mentally and physically -- the later stages of a match are my domain."

Pub Date: 3/08/97

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