Winfield looking to close gap to elusive state title

Wrestling: A runner-up last year, South Carroll's Andrew Winfield faces a tough road to the championship.

March 03, 2004|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

"I was this close," said Andrew Winfield, squeezing the thumb on his right hand within millimeters of his pointer finger. "Close enough to where it's been the only thing I think about at any given time or place."

The South Carroll wrestler was referring to last year's 160-pound Class 4A-3A state runner-up finish to Richard Montgomery's Scott Church.

Winfield is favored to redeem himself as The Sun's top-ranked 171-pounder with a 25-0 record entering this year's two-day event that begins Friday at the University of Maryland's Cole Field House.

His road to a state title will be challenging.

Should Winfield reach the semifinals, he likely will meet Poly's third-ranked Matthew Oakley (22-0), last year's 2A-1A state runner-up at 160 pounds.

A victory against Oakley could set up a bout with Owings Mills' No. 2 Eric Fishel (36-0), a third-place finisher at 171 pounds in last year's 2A-1A state tournament.

But Winfield said he is prepared.

"Last year, I was kind of nervous and in awe, even though I knew I had a chance. But I'm a lot calmer and I have a lot more confidence," said Winfield, 18, who was fifth at states as a sophomore. "I've come back with the attitude of this year it's mine and I've got to go out and get it."

Sitting in the bedroom of his home in New Windsor earlier this week, Winfield recalled last year's title bout.

"After riding him out in the second period, I was down by one [5-4] in the third. I chose bottom. I remembered thinking, `this is my match now, because I'm good on the mat and that's my territory,' " Winfield said. "But he got my arm in a corkscrew and turned me to my back [for three nearfall points.] I reversed him for two, but that's as close as I came."

Memories of that 8-6 loss "just pop into my head," Winfield said.

"I thought about it when I woke up this morning. My girlfriend hears about it," said Winfield. "I thought about it while I was at the beach. I thought about it all summer long."

After momentarily shifting his gaze to his left, toward a shelf in his bedroom that is lined with the numerous trophies and medals he's accumulated since he began wrestling at age 5, the two-time Carroll County and regional champ spoke again.

"When you love the sport of wrestling like I do, falling short like that, it just eats at you," Winfield said. "You're like, I could have been a state champ, not some second runner-up chump."

Known particularly for his leg riding - the ability to immobilize an opponent by tying up their legs with his own - Winfield has transformed himself into a more complete wrestler by becoming more physical.

Winfield's daily round-robin workouts include head-hunting 189-pound teammate Tim Ferguson, a notorious pinner with a 21-1 record, and former Penn State wrestlers Matt Postlethwait and Ross Hughes. Hughes earned NCAA All-American honors.

"They're [Hughes and Postlethwait] about 170 pounds, and Tim's an even bigger guy. So when we're drilling, it's like being in a state championship match. It's going hard like you're in overtime and you need a takedown to win," Winfield said. "Because of those guys, I've gotten a lot better on my feet. That's [neutral position] something that I fell short on last year, but I'm so much more confident on my feet. That and a general change in my intensity level, yeah, those things have really been a big difference."

Over the past two weekends Winfield dominated two top-notch wrestlers who might have caused him problems in the past.

Winfield scored two momentum-setting takedowns in a recent 10-0 rout of North Carroll's fourth-ranked Robbie Pearre. The victory earned Winfield his second county title in three seasons, while avenging a loss in the same event a year earlier.

Winfield was equally impressive in last weekend's regional title bout - a 17-1 technical fall over fifth-ranked Brandon Gervie. It was Winfield's second technical fall victory over the Liberty wrestler.

"Robbie's a good wrestler who I wrestled in a close match earlier this year," Winfield said. "Robbie can be a state champ on the 4A-3A side, and Brandon's got a win over Robbie. The way I wrestled against them shows that my hard work is paying off."

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