Beating bump on title road

Wrestling: Two years after a car crash, Franklin senior Matt Schuster is 12-0 and showing the form that won him a state championship as a freshman.

January 13, 2002|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

The experience was more devastating than any loss Matt Schuster ever had suffered on the wrestling mat.

It was October 1999, and Schuster, then a sophomore at Franklin High, was a passenger in the rear of a Honda Prelude. The driver lost control of the vehicle and slammed head-on into a tree.

The rest, Schuster said, is kind of fuzzy.

"I was sitting on the console in the back between two guys, and I was thrown something like 30 feet from the car, or that's what I was told. I don't really remember," said Schuster, who was not wearing a seat belt. He suffered only bruised ribs and received "a couple of stitches in the back of my head."

Now a 17-year-old senior, Schuster said that the boys had been drinking alcohol that night. One teammate of Schuster's suffered a neck injury that ended his high school career. Another sustained a concussion that caused him to miss the entire season. The wrestlers' absence hurt the Indians' chances of repeating as state tournament team champions.

But Shuster missed only two matches and won his first of two Damascus Tournament titles upon his return.

"I'm lucky and blessed to be alive," said Schuster, The Sun's No. 1-ranked 130-pound wrestler with a 12-0 record and six pins. "My parents are on me more, but I'm a lot more careful on my own in what I do."

And a lot more determined on the mat.

A state champion as a freshman, there have been some bumps in the road since. Schuster was a state runner-up as a sophomore and finished third last season.

In 2000, he lost to Jeff Eveleth, 7-1. Last year, he was beaten, 10-3, in the semifinals by eventual champion Jon Peters of Westlake.

"I think I could have put up a better match against Eveleth. I don't know what happened," said Schuster, whose 112-10 career record includes three Baltimore County titles, one regional crown and two runner-up finishes at regions.

"It seems pretty long ago that I won. I've had some tough kids, but I could have done better," Schuster said. "I knew winning four state titles was a possibility, but I knew it was a long ways away. This year, I want it pretty bad."

Schuster's quest continues next weekend, when he hopes to treat the home crowd to the winning of his third Franklin Tournament crown. Schuster already has won titles at the Meade and Damascus, winning the latter by pinning Williamsport's Cory Leggett, a former top-four finisher at states.

"I'm working harder, drilling harder in practice. I'm more relaxed big-time than in the past two years," said Schuster, who has a new coach in Rob Nusum, a former Pennsylvania state champion with coaching experience at Gilman and Johns Hopkins University. "I'm in much better shape. I wouldn't mind going undefeated. But my biggest concern is winning states."

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