'OJT' pays off for Old Mill's DeCosmo Wrestling: Old Mill's strong 152-pounder already has equaled last season's win total and is looking for more.

January 08, 1998|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

Everyone in the practice room was working extra hard to get ready for regionals last season, so Eric DeCosmo -- Old Mill wrestler first, team prankster second -- thought it was time to lighten the mood.

He ripped off his shirt, using one portion as a headband, others as ankle bands and started running around like a wild man. Make that "The Super Patriot."

The World Wrestling Federation couldn't have provided a better act.

"It was a goofy thing I did to have some fun and get everyone laughing. We were working so hard getting ready for regions," he said.

A senior this season, DeCosmo has indeed been super for the No. 9-ranked Patriots, going 13-4 so far at 152 pounds, and he's fresh off a first-place finish at the Francis Scott Key Holiday Tournament. His 13 wins are one short of his entire output last season, when he finished at 14-13.

DeCosmo, who didn't wrestle until he got to high school, spent his first three years learning on the job. Now, it's payday.

"We expect a lot of him. He has a lot of talent," said Old Mill coach Mike Hampe. "And he's starting to understand he can do it. He's always had the muscle. Now, he has strategy and time on the mat to help him. Confidence and all the moves he's been putting together over the years have come to fruition."

It wasn't easy.

A weight-room regular, DeCosmo dead-lifted a school-record 575 pounds, and Hampe said "pound for pound, he's the strongest kid on the team and one of the strongest I've ever coached."

But he had to learn there was much more to wrestling than just strength.

"I remember going up against the skinniest guys thinking I can whip them. But they had so much more skill than me," DeCosmo said. "Now, I'm sitting back, hitting my moves and thinking out on the mat. I'm a smarter wrestler."

Said Hampe: "He's very explosive. It looks like he's falling asleep on you and then -- bang! bang! bang! -- he's behind you. He's always going for the pin, but now he realizes he can't pin everyone. He also understands he doesn't need 1,000 different moves. He relies on three or four basic moves and does them very well."

nTC DeCosmo, the polished wrestler, was on display and at his best at Key's Holiday Tournament when he scored a tough 4-3 decision over Catoctin standout Jeremy Fuss in the semifinal.

Fuss, who finished third at states last season, came into the match undefeated and ranked fourth in the state. That didn't stop DeCosmo.

"Fuss is pretty tough. He likes to sit back and counter. My back was hurting, so I was cautious waiting for him," DeCosmo said. "I was down 3-2 going into the third period. I started on the bottom, reversed him and rode out the rest of the match. I beat him at his own game."

He followed with a win over Francis Scott Key's Tim Beale in the tournament final to claim a tough 152-pound class.

It was a good tournament for the entire DeCosmo family with younger brother Adam, a freshman 103-pounder with junior league experience, also coming home with a championship. Included in his run through the bracket was a win over Bel Air's Brad Stone, who came into the tournament undefeated and ranked fourth in the state.

The one thing that particularly sold older brother Eric on the wrestling program at Old Mill was its fine tradition. Now, he's in the middle of it, doing his best to carry it on.

"Guys are always coming back teaching us moves. They keep coming back year after year. It's a great program," Eric said. "I got my little brother up here, and that pushes me even more. I'm trying to work a little harder and set an example for him."

Pub Date: 1/08/98

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