Matt Harvey doesn't mind being misinterpreted.
Quiet by nature, Harvey, a junior wrestling in the 119-pound weight class for Meade, is a study in silent concentration before every match. What some opponents might gauge as nerves, Harvey views as an opportunity.
"I'm always quiet because I like to get focused," he says. "I don't like to joke around or talk a lot before a match. It gets me prepared for what I have to do."
The results are undeniable. Harvey has compiled a 25-2 record and enters today's Class 4A-3A state tournament as the East Region champ and one of four No. 1 seeds.
And when the tourney kicks off at 2:30 p.m. at Western Maryland College in Westminster, Harvey may be a favorite to join alums Adam Butts (1995) and Matt Pandullo (1999) as Meade's third state champ.
Mustangs coach Chad Vossburg says Harvey has the tools to accomplish a first for the program.
"He wants to be our first two-time state champ," Vossburg says. "I've always said that it's just a matter of who wrestles the best for four matches."
Harvey's road to this stage is littered with potholes and obstacles. Although he captured back-to-back county championships as a seventh- and eighth-grader for the Severn Athletic Club (SAC), making the transition to high school wrestling proved to be a challenge.
"It was totally different than wrestling for SAC," Harvey recalls. "We practiced five days a week, and I practiced with Matt Pandullo. We pushed each other real hard."
As a 103-pound freshman, Harvey was a respectable 20-15, but turned some heads when he placed fourth at the regional tournament and upended top-seeded Chris Shelton of Northern of Calvert County in the first round of the state tourney.
"That gave him the confidence to know that he could wrestle at the high school level," Vossburg says. "Not just as an average wrestler, but as a good wrestler."
Harvey's sophomore season was even better as he earned runner-up performances at the county and regional championships and placed fifth at the state tournament en route to a 27-7 mark.
But three of those losses came at the hands of Chesapeake's Matt Eveleth, who marched to his first state title. Vossburg says Harvey's confidence took a bit of a hit until he won a first-period pin in the fifth/sixth-place match at states.
"When he pinned him, you could see this killer instinct in his eyes," Vossburg says. "That's something I'm trying to develop in him."
Harvey's development has continued this year. He has easily captured county and regional crowns, and his only setbacks have been to Kevin Artis of Archbishop Curley and Jarrod Casciole of Notre Dame in Easton, Pa.
But Harvey says his work ethic lagged a bit in the beginning of the season. So he took it upon himself to return to the basics of improving his endurance.
A typical day includes 45 minutes of running in the school hallways before a three-hour practice, another seven-mile jog after practice, a stint on a stationary bike while watching television, and pushups and situps during the commercial breaks.
The toiling has helped Harvey enhance his image in the Meade practice room as a tireless worker.
"You can see that he's tired," says practice partner and freshman Chris Abbott. "But he continues to work hard, striving to be better."
Harvey says he knows the running and conditioning will pay off when he's able to claim a state championship.
"It would mean a lot to me," he says. "I feel confident that I can go in there and make a name for myself."
What: Class 4A-3A, 2A-1A state tournaments
When: Today, tomorrow
Where: Western Maryland College, Gill Center
Directions: From I-695 (Baltimore Beltway) take I-795 West. Follow exit sign for Westminster (Rt. 140). Continue into Westminster. Turn left at Center Street across from mall. Take right on Main Street. Bear right onto West Main Street. Take second entrance into campus (near athletic fields).
Sessions: Today - preliminaries, 2:30-6:30; quarterfinals, 7:30-10; Tomorrow - consolation preliminaries, 10-noon; championship semifinals, consolation quarterfinals; noon-2:30; consolation semifinals, 2:30 to 3:30; fifth/sixth-place, consolation finals, championship finals (simultaneously on six mats), 5.
Admission: All-session pass is $15.
Individual-session tickets are $5.