Pritzker still maximizing potential at Owings Mills

Coach: Guy Pritzker, 49, continues to do what he does best - bring out the best in his wrestlers and allow them to succeed.

High School Sports

Winter Preview

December 05, 2003|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

Financial manager Josh Ellin of Los Angeles says he pursues an account much like coach Guy Pritzker told him to pursue Dunbar's favored Bruce Pendles in his 125-pound state title upset as an Owings Mills senior.

"A lot of times, competing against people more knowledgeable and more seasoned, I approach those individuals like I approached Bruce Pendles," said Ellin, 26, whose 5-4 decision over the previously unbeaten Pendles sealed a 1995 2A-1A state tournament team win over Damascus by 1 1/2 points.

"I'd get so nervous before every match, but Pritzker said, `Go have a good time.' Just like that, he removed all of the pressure," Ellin said. "Even if you lose an account, like losing a tough match, you keep going forward. I thank Pritzker every day of my life."

Pritzker, 49, enters this, his 22nd coaching season, with the same, quirky unconventional approach - even as his third-ranked Eagles come off a perfect season during which they won every tournament they entered.

As always, this year's team is a cross-cultural mix of inexperienced wrestlers who began as freshmen and experienced wrestlers seasoned in the Owings Mills junior league program run by longtime coaches Jay Mutchnick, Howard Ginsberg and Nate Davis.

"But more than anything, it's the attitude Guy brings out in his wrestlers, that's why he wins," Ellin said. "Bruce Pendles was a better wrestler than me, but no matter who his wrestlers are, Guy finds a way to maximize their potential."

Pritzker's assistants - this year they are Justin Ott and Kenny Gendason - have come and gone, but the coach's demeanor remains unchanged.

"He's always cracking jokes" as he walks through his practice room of about 55 wrestlers, said Rob Cooper, a senior who, last season, became Pritzker's 18th individual state champ. "People are always dogging us about the way [Pritzker] coaches. They say he's too laid back, doesn't work us hard enough. But it's just hard enough to get results."

In February, Owings Mills capped a 17-0 record with a 43-26 Class 2A-1A championship rout of Beall of Frostburg, making Pritzker the first to coach, and the Eagles the first team to win, back-to-back state titles in dual-meet competition. In March, two weeks later, Pritzker led the Eagles to their fifth 2A-1A state tournament crown, adding it to ones he won in 1991, '92, '95 and '96.

Last season was supposed to be a rebuilding year, but Cooper is among eight state qualifiers and 11 returning wrestlers - five of them being state place-winners. The Eagles are favored to win an unprecedented third straight state duals crown and to tie Old Mill of Anne Arundel County with their sixth title in the tournament format.

Entering the Parkville Tournament, which runs today and tomorrow, Pritzker has a 288-44 career dual-meet record. The coach can win his 299th match with a win at Western Tech on Tuesday, and reach the milestone 300th in a Dec. 12 tri-meet involving Grace Brethren at Friends.

"We look tough," said Mike Kessler, a 145-pound junior whose brothers, Kevin (one), Gregg (three) and Steve (four) combined to win eight state titles - the last two as wrestlers for Pritzker.

Kessler credits Pritzker for what he considers his greatest high school victory when, as a freshman, his 9-7 win over senior state champ Brian Fox keyed an upset of defending state duals champ Kent.

"Coach Pritzker has an unorthodox style where he takes the pressure off of you," Kessler said. "Sometimes you go easy in practice, sometimes hard. He knows how to coach. But rather than going full force all the time, just teaching you moves, he's into teaching you about life."

"I think our wrestlers succeed because when they're out on the mat, they feel like I'm out there with them," Pritzker said. "Plus, I think a lot of it is divine intervention. Some of it, to tell you the truth, I don't really understand."

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