Unmatched enthusiasm Wrestling: Westminster coach Henry Mohlhenrich is emotional, demanding and devoted to his sport, and it's an approach that is paying off with success.

December 02, 1997|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Westminster coach Henry Mohlhenrich has a passion for wrestling. Watch him during a match, vigorously cheering on his wrestlers. Take a look at him during practice, when he thinks nothing of getting down on the mat and working with kids nearly 30 years younger.

Mohlhenrich's enthusiasm and love of the sport have helped Westminster shoot to the top of the county and state in recent years. The Owls were 16-2 last year, took second in the Class 3A-4A dual meet state tournament and third in the state's open competition.

Mohlhenrich, entering his fifth season at the helm, had been at Westminster before as a student, winning three titles during as a junior in 1968. He won the county championship plus the Bi-county title (with Howard County schools) and the Tri-State (with Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia schools) crown.

That love for the sport has endured. When he came aboard at Westminster, Mohlhenrich threw himself into the job. His enthusiasm showed -- and made a difference.

"I kind of thought my enthusiasm might rub off," said Mohlhenrich. "I like to try to do things a little differently. I like to get in there with them."

And so he does. Mohlhenrich often leads the calisthenics at practice. He'll jump in to run the dreaded steps with his team and often get down on the mat to wrestle with his troops.

Mohlhenrich created a demanding program. The Owls are always working on conditioning, drills or actual live wrestling. Some coaches don't favor live mat work in practice, but Mohlhenrich's team does it all the time.

"When they go out there on the mat, I don't want it to be a shock to them," said Mohlhenrich.

The Owls practice six days a week -- including a 9 a.m. Saturday workout -- and kids grumbled at first about the intensity of the workouts. But as the Owls have found success the past few years, the wrestlers have stopped complaining as much.

The Owls always have had talent, but for some reason had struggled to get to the elite level. Westminster has begun to move in that direction the last few years under Mohlhenrich. The Owls won a region title in the dual meet tournament two years ago, surprising some, but really broke through last year.

Westminster came up with some big victories -- including its road win over longtime power Owings Mills that gave the team some late-season confidence -- captured the county title and then made it to the dual meet state final. Arundel topped the Owls in that match, and Westminster later took third in the state in the open meet at Western Maryland College.

Mohlhenrich hopes his program is beginning to solidify for a long-term run. The Westminster Mat Rats, a recreation team that practices at the high school right after the varsity does, is slowly becoming a strong feeder to the Owls.

In addition, the winning goes a long way toward bringing wrestlers out. Sixty-eight wrestlers signed up on the first day this season.

"When you get on a roll, success breeds success," said Francis Scott Key coach Bill Hyson. "He's got some kids that believe in what they're doing."

Mohlhenrich also has noticed that, and it shows in the team's acceptance of the rigorous practices.

"It's become a pride thing," said Mohlhenrich. "The guys on our team realize they're doing so well because of their conditioning. They don't mind, and a lot of times they'll ask [for more]."

Said North Carroll coach Bryan Wetzel: "They're definitely intense. I know their practices are pretty tough. They go a lot longer than other teams."

And no one does more than their leader. Mohlhenrich, now an auto wholesaler, still has the love for the sport he had as a child. His wife even jokes that sometimes his priorities are a little goofy in regards to the sport.

"Henry has a real passion for the sport," said South Carroll coach Pete Olson. "His enthusiasm is contagious for his guys. I think the kids respond to that."

Said Mohlhenrich: "I love the sport, but I also feel like I owe it something. Wrestling has done more for me than probably a lot of people."

Pub Date: 12/02/97

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