Champ changes for better Wrestling: Westminster's Dave Spicer won a state championship last season, but didn't stand pat. He has developed a more aggressive style and it's paid off with more success this season.

January 04, 1998|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Dave Spicer of Westminster gained a lot from last year's state tournament.

Winning the Class 3A-4A state championship at 135 pounds certainly helped Spicer's confidence. But the overall success he found in that tournament convinced Spicer to change his wrestling style -- something that has led to more success this year.

Wrestling at 140 pounds this year for No. 6 Westminster, Spicer is 15-1 with 13 pins, while using a style of wrestling that has changed dramatically from last year.

Spicer used to be more of a defensive, counter-attacking wrestler. More often than not, the senior would answer his opponent's move. Now he's always on the prowl, looking to attack and score points.

"I was more concerned with being taken down," said Spicer. "Now I'm concerned with the takedown. I used to be a real passive wrestler, but now I'm pushing it more."

Westminster coach Henry Mohlhenrich appreciates the change in style, saying that even though Spicer is a state champion, he's taken his abilities to another level. Mohlhenrich said he always knew Spicer had the physical capabilities, but the new style serves him well.

"He was very tentative before," said Mohlhenrich. "This year he's very aggressive. It's continuous pressure. When the whistle blows, it's continuous aggressiveness."

Mohlhenrich said Spicer is doing much more chain wrestling -- constantly doing move after move -- instead of just waiting for an opening and using only one move. That helps him apply constant pressure.

His style began to change at the state tournament last March, one in which he scored three thrilling come-from-behind victories en route to a state title that surprised some people.

The fun began in the quarterfinals when Spicer pulled a five-point move on Chris Richards of Damascus in the final 15 seconds for a 7-4 victory. Trailing 4-2, Spicer turned it on to pull out a win that taught him a valuable lesson.

"That one set the stage for the final rounds," said Spicer. "That one showed me I had to wrestle aggressively."

He came from behind again to win an overtime victory in the semifinals and pulled it off one more time to top C.M. Wright's Michael Riley in the championship. Spicer's late third-period takedown gave him a 2-1 victory and the title. Riley had beaten Spicer just a week before (6-4) in the region championship.

Spicer said the loss in the region final actually may have helped. He said the close defeated motivated him to train even harder. When the state tournament came a few days later, Spicer was ready.

He finished last season with a 36-6 record after winning the county, Central Maryland Conference and state titles and taking second in the region. And the more he won against tough opponents, the more Spicer began to believe in himself.

The biggest regular-season victory may have come earlier against Drew Bowers from Owings Mills when the Owls upset the host Eagles. Bowers had handled Spicer twice in juniors with relative ease -- a technical fall and a decision -- but this match was different.

Spicer frustrated the Owings Mills wrestler with a quick takedown and went to score a 6-1 victory, a match that helped seal a Westminster victory that the Owls pointed to as one of the season's most important.

"That turned things around for me," said Spicer. "It really gave me the confidence that I could compete on that level."

Spicer continued to train in the off-season, working hard at conditioning and on his moves. He went to camps and trained hard with teammate Bobby Biden. When this season began, Spicer was ready.

He's hoping for an even better record and a second straight state title this season. Spicer would like to continue wrestling next year, and he's hoping to attend the Naval Academy.

"I feel I've picked up right where I left off from last year," said Spicer. "I'm not backtracking."

Pub Date: 1/04/98

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