Ready to answer call

Cornell-bound Mack Lewnes of Mount St. Joe is shooting for an undefeated season against tough competition.

November 30, 2005|By LUKE BROADWATER | LUKE BROADWATER,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

On July 1, the first day that college coaches are allowed to contact high school athletes, Mack Lewnes' phone began to ring.

First, it was the University of Maryland calling the Mount St. Joseph senior wrestler. Then it was Old Dominion, Lehigh and the University of Virginia.

Calls from Princeton, Columbia, the University of Pennsylvania, Cornell, Oklahoma State, Nebraska and Virginia Tech soon followed.

Everybody seemed to want Lewnes.

"It was a really hard decision," said Lewnes, The Sun's All-Metro Wrestler of the Year as a sophomore, who committed to Cornell on Nov. 11. "I was going back and forth. It came down to how awesome the hotel school is in Cornell. That's what I really wanted to major in. It was the best combination of academics and wrestling."

It's no wonder Lewnes was so highly recruited. With a 137-12 career record, a grade point average of more than 4.0, and wins over some of the nation's best wrestlers, the three-time private schools state champion is one of the best Maryland high school wrestlers in recent memory.

"He's just so big and he's strong as a horse," said Jason Bryant of intermatwrestle.com, which rates Lewnes as the No. 1 160-pound wrestler in the country. "You don't normally think of big guys as being quick, but he's very quick and agile for his weight.

Neil Adleberg, who coached 11 NCAA Division I wrestlers at Mount St. Joseph, including national champ Rico Chiapparelli in the late 1970s, called Lewnes "one of the most talented kids ever to come out of Maryland."

St. Mary's coach Wayne Hicks, who finished second in the NCAA tournament at 137 pounds in 1965 and coached Lewnes in junior league, agreed.

"When [Lewnes] was an eighth grader, [Navy coach] Bruce Burnett said he was the best pre-high school wrestler he'd ever seen," Hicks said. "Mack is coming out of high school rated No. 1 in the country. Anybody who's in that category obviously has the potential to become a national champion. There's no limit to how good he could be."

This winter, Lewnes aims to find out just how good he is. He wants to go undefeated through one of the toughest high school wrestling schedules in the country. The Gaels' schedule includes three of the most competitive invitational tournaments in the country and the National Preps.

But the team captain has local goals as well. He wants his No. 1 Gaels to win a fourth consecutive private schools state title.

The road won't be easy, since Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association rival No. 2 McDonogh has loaded up with an impressive squad and will present a formidable challenge for the Gaels. Mount St. Joseph will face McDonogh, along with No. 3 Hammond and No. 4 Harford Tech, at the Mount Mat Madness tournament Jan. 20.

The Gaels will wrestle McDonogh in a dual meet Feb. 3.

"I'm definitely excited about that match. I think we've got enough guys and enough experience that we can pull through on top," Lewnes said. "I hope a lot of people come to that because it's going to be crazy."

Said first-year Gaels coach Kirk Salvo: "We want to win the MIAA championship and private state championship. We've got to go through McDonogh to do it. It's great to have a challenge in house."

As Lewnes attempts to run the table during the Gaels' schedule, he also thinks about what his future might hold at Cornell and beyond.

After he graduates from Cornell with a degree in hospitality management, he wants to join his brother Sam, a wrestler at Oklahoma State, and his father, Charlie, in running Charlie's restaurant, Lewnes Steak House in Annapolis.

From there, Mack Lewnes wants to open his own business.

"Eventually, I want Sam to take over the restaurant and I can start another restaurant," he said. "I think prime steaks are the way to go, but who knows? Maybe it will be Italian."

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