Arundel big man pursues a goal: one more victory

Wrestling: Jeff Blachly missed a state title by six points last winter. With added muscle and determination, the senior heavyweight is undefeated and off to another excellent season.

January 08, 1999|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

For Arundel heavyweight Jeff Blachly, success has come with the ability to compensate.

What the senior lacks in size, he more than makes up for with speed, conditioning and heart. The result is wins.

"Jeff's a very hard worker. He has a lot of guts, just never quits and hates to lose," said Arundel coach Buddy Hepfer. "That's half the battle any time you wrestle."

At 195 pounds last winter -- light for his weight class -- Blachly made the most of his first state tournament appearance, reaching the final before losing 10-4 to Bel Air's Jeremiah Albright, an undefeated, 275-pound senior.

His effort played big in helping the Wildcats claim the Class 3A-4A state championship.

"After the state finals, nothing can really compare to that match. You're not going to get that kind of pressure anywhere else," said Blachly.

His goal for this season is a return trip to states that includes one more win.

Preparation started a couple weeks after the end of last season. He hit the weights hard during the off-season, adding 20 pounds and boosting his strength but maintaining quickness.

In the fall, Blachly closed out a three-year varsity football career, playing every position on the offensive line and making a smooth adjustment from defensive end to linebacker.

He led the Wildcats with 110 tackles to claim All-County honors for a second straight season and also earned the Al Laramore Award as the county's outstanding lineman.

With that kind of momentum, he hasn't let up. Blachly, ranked third in the state, is 11-0 going into today's Arundel Invitational.

"The thing that makes Jeff special is he has the extreme confidence that he can beat anyone," said practice partner Matt Neidig, a standout at 171 for the Wildcats.

That was apparent in Blachly's first big test early in the season against Northeast's James Taylor, who took three out of four bouts from Blachly last season -- all by one point.

"Jeff went out after it, and he set the pace," said Hepfer. "Before the match, I said, `Right here comes down to what you're going to do this year.' We preach attack, and he kept Taylor off his offense the whole time."

Taking the initiative, Blachly charged to a 5-0 lead in the first period and went on to a surprisingly comfortable 14-6 major decision.

"He's a lot stronger this year," Taylor said following the match.

Blachly's next major challenge could come in this weekend's tournament, if he meets DeMatha's top-ranked Marc Hayes. Last season, Blachly scored a tight 3-2 decision.

With his undefeated start this season, Blachly is now 71-28 for his career, which started midway through his freshman season. In the ninth and 10th grade, he competed out of his weight class. He wrestled in the 189-pound class at around 170 in his first year.

Early on, he had what Hepfer described as an unorthodox style: "He'd look like he was in trouble a lot of times and would come out smelling like a rose."

He's a much more polished wrestler today.

"Technician-wise, he's got some real good moves, is very good on his feet and has good speed and balance, which he needs, being a heavyweight," said Hepfer. "Going up against the bigger boys, you can't get caught underneath. You have to slick them to get away from the muscle situations."

With speed, conditioning, added strength and growing confidence, you have to like Blachly's chances every time he takes to the mat.

"Reaching the state finals gave me momentum, going into this year," he said. "I want to prove it wasn't a fluke that I got there, and I want to get back there again.

"Except I want to finish it this time."

Pub Date: 1/08/99

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