Aye tunes his eye to winning place on N. County wall Wrestling: A disappointing loss last season plus improved skills and training have Knights senior aiming at a school first.

December 11, 1997|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

There's a special wall in the hallway just outside the gym at North County High. On it are banners of state title teams, as well as photographs of the individual winners from the various sports.

Wrestling coach Larry Radford made a point of taking his two-year captain, senior WT Aye, on a quick visit to the wall one day before this season started.

"He said, 'You see anything wrong with this wall?' " Aye recalled. "I said, 'Yeah, I'm not up there.' For him to do that really meant a lot to me. It makes me want to do that much better and work that much harder."

North County never has had a state wrestling champion. Corey Fowler, a 1994 grad, placed third in the state tournament his senior year. This season, Aye -- the Knights' standout 152-pounder -- wants to change all that.

That's why he gets up at 6: 15 every morning to run 2 miles, then goes off to school. That is also why, after practice, he hits the weight room and studies -- and finds time to run 3 more miles.

"You have to be focused and keep your priorities in order. Everything has to be one day at a time, and you can't stop for anything," he said. "I've learned to appreciate each day, because one day you may get hurt or something and it will be all over. I plan on going all the way and don't want anything to get in the way."

Watching his older brother, Titus, wrestle and a nudge from Radford, who taught him in the seventh grade, played big in steering Aye toward wrestling.

He started in a junior league program at Old Mill and then battled through two tough seasons of varsity before breaking through last season.

As a freshman, he was sick for half the season and finished with a 7-11 mark. As a sophomore, he missed more time with a torn rib cage but still went 15-8 and qualified for the state tournament.

"It all came together the summer before my junior year, when I went to a camp," Aye said, referring to Neil Turner's program at Western Maryland College in Westminster. "We'd have matches, and I went undefeated. It wasn't any new moves I learned. I just found my groove."

And quite a groove.

About Aye's characteristics, Radford said: "He has super speed with excellent strength, and his tall body gives him great leverage. He also works as hard or harder than anyone in the [practice] room. When you think of North County wrestling, you say 'WT.' "

Aye turned the corner with a 27-6 junior season, continuing to learn along the way. That season included four tough matches against Arundel standout Isaac Hartel -- both wrestlers won twice -- and a disappointing close loss by decision to Westminster's Austin Lanham in the state tournament's second round.

"When you go out, wrestle the best you can, and a guy beats you, there's nothing more you can do," Aye said. "But I thought -- mentally and physically -- I was better than him [Lanham] and should have won. It eats at you, hurts real bad when you lose like that. It's not going to be like that this year."

That's all part of the learning process, and Aye understands how that helped get him to where he is now -- a senior leader, 3-0 after winning the Meade Tournament a second straight year and ranked sixth in the state.

"He can be as good as he wants to be," said Radford. "He gets into his wild style, and sometimes it costs him. He's learning to slow down, become more disciplined and understand what it takes to be a winner at the next level."

For WT -- the unusual name comes from initials of his grandfather's two older brothers, William and Thomas -- there's a constant reminder of what he wants to accomplish in his final season.

He passes by it every day in the hallway.

Pub Date: 12/11/97

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