2 champs work for new titles together

Wrestling: Each the best wrestler at his school, Hereford's D.J. Scarponi and Dulaney's James Knox try pushing each other higher.

High Schools

February 25, 2005|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

Hereford's D.J. Scarponi got a pep talk from an unexpected source before his 119-pound title bout of last weekend's Baltimore County public schools wrestling tournament.

"I told him to make it quick," said Dulaney's James Knox, whose 125-pound match against Sparrows Point's Alex Weber followed Scarponi's. "He went out and did what I asked: Got the kid in a headlock, and it was over."

After pinning Owings Mills' Tony Mack in 2:28 for his first county title, Scarponi said he "slapped five" with Knox and returned the favor.

"Now it's your turn," Scarponi told Knox as they passed each other, one stepping onto the mat and the other exiting. "Go out and get it done."

Knox did just that, earning his third straight county crown with a 23-8 technical fall.

The two senior state champions, each his school's most successful wrestler, continued to motivate each other during a practice Tuesday at Dulaney, where they geared up for the season-ending regional and state tournaments.

"Knox has been great to work with. He really gives me a lot of encouragement and drive," a sweat-soaked Scarponi said Tuesday. "He forces me to raise my level of intensity."

Today, they'll head their separate ways: Knox (34-1, 16 pins) goes after his second Class 4A-3A North region crown at River Hill High; and Scarponi (33-2, 17 pins), his second regional crown in the Class 2A-1A North at Owings Mills High.

Knox will try to add to his school-record 150 career wins. He has just 12 losses, 10 to state champs or state runners-up, and six of those being overtime or one-point setbacks.

Knox was third at regions during his freshman year and was first and second, respectively, as a sophomore and a junior. At states, Knox has placed fifth, second and first.

Scarponi is 124-32 in four seasons at Hereford, far ahead of the 108 wins by four-time county champ and two-time state runner-up Rob Hough. Scarponi has been fourth, first and second, respectively, at regions and sixth, first and second at states.

Knox was last year's 4A-3A state champion at 112 pounds, and Scarponi, the 112-pound state champ two years ago. Knox is favored to repeat in his class this year, but Scarponi is considered an underdog.

At the state tournament, to be held at the Maryland's Cole Field House, Knox's challengers should include River Hill's state runner-up Taylor Green; Wheaton's unbeaten Alejandro Zea; and Arundel's Justin Bowser, who has placed fourth and third, respectively, at states.

Scarponi likely will have to get past Hammond's state runner-up Ethan Cohen, Francis Scott Key's third-place finisher Reuben Gill, and North Caroline's fourth-place finisher Matt Frey.

"D.J.'s on a mission. He's got something to prove, because there's a few good kids out there who others think are as good or better than he is," said Hereford coach Ron Causey. "But lately, D.J.'s just kicked into another gear. That's what you saw at counties, where his intensity rose with each successive period."

Scarponi overcame early trouble against Mack, a former junior-league state champ, to record his 13th pin during a run of 23 consecutive victories.

"D.J. was hitting all of his moves," said Knox. "I think he's on a roll and that he's looking really, really tough."

Scarponi was equally complimentary about Knox, who won on two technical falls and two pins in the county tournament.

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