For City's Moody, knowing priorities is not a problem

Wrestling: Watching his brothers' encounters with leukemia, Nelson Moody, a 119-pound senior, keeps his mat work in perspective.

High Schools

February 02, 2003|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

City College senior Nelson Moody got the bad news on Christmas Day.

George Baker, his older brother by a year, had been diagnosed with leukemia. It was the same disease that had threatened another sibling, Tavon Moody, 20, when Nelson was in sixth grade.

Baker was hospitalized at Johns Hopkins.

"Every day, for about the last month, I would leave practice for Johns Hopkins just to be with him," said Moody, a 119-pound wrestler with a pleasant smile and hazel eyes. Baker was released from the hospital two weeks ago. Tavon's leukemia is in remission.

"George has regular chemotherapy sessions. I go with him a lot of times," said Moody, 18, who maintains contact with his brothers by cellular phone when he's not by their side.

"I keep both of my brothers with me on the mat. They've been through life-threatening situations, and all I'm going through is learning how to pin people," Moody said. "If they can endure what they've gone through, I can endure what it takes to become a champion."

Last season, beginning in the fall, that involved overcoming a career-threatening injury to his left knee. Nelson still managed to win his second Baltimore City tournament crown after being third as a sophomore, but the injury played a role in his failure to qualify for his third straight state tournament.

"My attack is based on quickness, and I used to lead with my left leg on takedowns. I had to switch to leading with my right," said Moody, who wore a leg brace while competing that "got heavier as the match went on."

"Nelson doesn't sit back and dwell on things that are negative in life. He knows that if he works real hard, he can make them better in the future," said City coach Bernie Leneau. "He's worked so hard to get back, this year, so I hope he gets to states. Maybe he can take the whole ball of wax."

Moody, who did not begin wrestling until his freshman year, remains a state title contender. Ranked sixth in The Sun, and fourth among Class 2A-1A wrestlers by the Maryland State Wrestling Association, Moody has a 23-1 record, including 16 pins and two technical-fall victories.

"In the wrestling room, Nelson's a ball of fire," Leneau said of the two-time city champion. "He talks to the guys every day during and after practice, tells them what's expected of them. They look up to him and try to emulate him."

Moody got off to a quick start this year, winning the season-opening Stephen Decatur tournament. He also has captured his second straight title in the Boys' Latin Invitational. On Jan. 22, Moody earned his 100th career win against city rival Carver. His career record is 106-17.

"Nelson's a hard-working kid with great vision and goals. The sport has shown him a lot about teamwork and how to be a leader. I'm extremely proud of him," said Nelson Moody Sr., 39, a city traffic enforcement officer.

Nelson Moody Sr. and his ex-wife, Marguerite Baker, support their son at his matches.

"I take days off from work to be a part of his life," said Nelson Moody Sr. "My father was never around, and I don't want Nelson to grow up fatherless like I did."

A three-sport athlete who plays lacrosse and football, Nelson is a "B" average student with designs on competing in college and becoming an athletic trainer or a physical therapist.

Nelson, himself, had to rehabilitate after tearing a knee ligament during a preseason scrimmage his junior year. He missed the entire football season.

"During the time he was injured, he worked very, very hard outside of school with his physical therapist and in the swimming pool," Leneau said of Moody, who said his left knee is "110 percent, and stronger than the right one."

"I was always in the weight room, strengthening my leg," said Moody, who now bench-presses 245 pounds and squats 300. "I ran the stands at Johns Hopkins, but couldn't do it as well on the one leg. But I still won 22 matches on a bad knee."

Recruited to wrestle as a freshman by 189-pound upperclassman Antwoine Boykins, Moody excelled during his inaugural year at 103. He went 30-6 and won his first city crown before finishing fourth in his region.

Nelson's sophomore year was generally better: He placed third in the city tournament, second at regions and fourth at states.

"From the first day I met Nelson, he was a positive influence on all of the guys," Leneau said.

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