Wrestling has hold on him

For Maurice Fleming, the sport is a family tradition.

December 07, 2005|By LUKE BROADWATER | LUKE BROADWATER,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

When the Fleming brothers of Pasadena get together, it's not always a good time for 16-year-old Maurice.

"He's got three brothers who remind him of every match he's lost, to whom, and by how much," said T.R. Fleming, 27, the oldest of the Flemings, and a county and regional wrestling champion at Northeast High School.

In those critiques, it's T.R. and James, 25, who do most of the ribbing, with 11-year-old Marcellus occasionally joining in. Maurice Fleming, now a junior at Northeast, usually remains quiet.

Maurice reminds his brothers that his state title makes him the most accomplished Fleming "only when my dad tells me to," he said.

"If he made a bone-head mistake, his brothers remind him of it," said Ted Fleming, Maurice's father. "After a while, he's got to defend himself."

This winter, Maurice Fleming's position in the family pecking order isn't the only thing he'll be defending. He will also be carrying his private schools state title with him as he takes on Anne Arundel County public school competition.

A transfer from Gilman, where he established himself as one of the premiere wrestlers in the state, Maurice Fleming won private schools state and Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association titles before finishing fifth at the National Preps.

Now, he is coming home to Pasadena to compete for the program that brothers T.R. and James wrestled for.

"From Day One, he wanted to go to Northeast," Ted Fleming said of Maurice. But, with Ted's counsel, Maurice agreed to attend Gilman for his freshman and sophomore years.

In the spring of his sophomore year, Maurice Fleming told his father that he wanted to go to public school to be with his friends.

Being at Northeast will also allow him to carry on his brothers' tradition at the school.

"I've always grown up to want to be like my older brothers," he said.

Northeast head wrestling coach Terry Hyde said he and his coaching staff were excited when they heard Maurice Fleming would be wrestling for their team this season. "It wasn't just me," Hyde said. "Everyone on the coaching staff was enthusiastic about Maurice."

Fleming, who moves up to 130 pounds after wrestling at 119 last season, will attempt to accomplish a rare feat: Winning both private and public schools state titles. Only three wrestlers in Maryland history have done so and none were from the metro area.

Fleming already is making an impact in the Northeast wrestling room, said Ray Haney, a senior captain and two-time state qualifier.

Haney, a 119-pounder who wrestled with Maurice in the Bucs junior league program, is Fleming's primary drill partner this year. "Having somebody with his caliber skills will really help me," Haney said. "Us together, we'll be able to push each other and hopefully win states."

Haney said Fleming is so good because of experience. "He's just done it for so many years," he said. "His father really got him into it. His father is really into the whole family wrestling."

Indeed, Ted Fleming is often around his son, pushing Maurice to go to that one extra practice, that one additional tournament to make him a better wrestler.

This summer, T.R. Fleming, has grappled with Maurice at club practices and after school.

For the Flemings, wrestling is a part of growing up.

"Maurice and Marcellus learned wrestling as 1-year-olds on the living room floor," Ted Fleming said. "They wrestled many wrestling matches before they ever got to a formal practice."

Being exposed to wrestling at such a young age is certainly invaluable, but Maurice Fleming also is a talented athlete. He is known for his ability to deftly scramble out of opponent's takedown attempts - a skill he showed in winning his state and MIAA titles over St. Mary's previously undefeated Lou Ruland last season.

"There are times in practice where I'll get in really deep on a shot, but Maurice will just be able to move his hips, scramble and get back on top," Haney said.

Fleming has also put in the work to become a champion. When he was younger, he traveled to Pennsylvania and New Jersey seeking tough competition. He has attended camps and worked out at the state's elite wrestling clubs.

"He's always around a wrestling mat throughout the year," Ted Fleming said. "If you don't work hard in the practice room, you can be as talented as you want and you're not going to see results in competition."

It certainly doesn't hurt to have older brothers watching his every move.

"Sometimes a kick in the butt from a sibling means more than one from a parent," Ted Fleming said. "He's always tried to live up to what he perceives to be his brothers' expectations."

According to his brothers, he has.

"I still remember when Maurice was 3 years old, coming to my practices at Northeast with [National Wrestling Hall of Fame] Coach [Al] Kohlhafer. He's all grown up now and he's getting good," T.R. Fleming said. "I love watching my brother wrestle. To actually see him win the state championship, that was the pinnacle for me. Maurice isn't my brother anymore; I'm Maurice's brother.

"Words cannot express how proud I am of him."

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