Shooting for top position

Dedicated to wrestling since fourth grade, Glenelg sophomore Chris Stinnett wants to win three state titles before he's through.

February 15, 2006|By GLENN GRAHAM | GLENN GRAHAM,SUN REPORTER

Throughout his childhood, Glenelg sophomore Chris Stinnett was getting into whatever his older stepbrother, Mike Hornzell, was doing.

Mike, now a senior at UMBC, played baseball, so Chris played baseball. Mike got into basketball, so Chris gave it a try. The same for soccer.

One sport - wrestling - stuck.

Stinnett first took to the mat in the fourth grade after watching his brother's matches during his high school days at Howard. The sport now has Stinnett's complete attention, and it shows. After winning county and regional titles and taking fifth at states as a freshman, the Gladiators' 125-pound standout is 24-2 this season with more high expectations.

"I like the satisfaction of being able to win on my own. And there's nobody else to blame stuff on - it's all on me," Stinnett said of wrestling.

When Stinnett first started to wrestle, he went all-out. On Mondays and Wednesday, he was learning from Oakland Mills coach Brad Howell in the Orange Crush program. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, he'd wrestle with the Hammond Headhunters' club. The weekends were for tournaments.

Success came fast and hasn't stopped, as he continues to wrestle year-round, aside from the time he takes off in August "to just rest and kind of get fat," he said.

Glenelg wrestling coach Rob Bowman gets a firsthand look every day at how much wrestling means to Stinnett.

"Wrestling is definitely a big part of him and it shows," Bowman said. "It's great to have a guy in the room that brings the passion he has. It's such a tough sport and it can be grueling, so it's very rare to find someone who is so ready to go every day like he is. It rubs off, and some of the guys think he's a little crazy because he loves it so much."

Crazy? No. Unorthodox? Perhaps.

While Stinnett is a polished wrestler from all the time he has put into the sport, he's also considered unconventional by some, largely because of his ability to scramble.

"He's tough and wrestles awkwardly - different than anyone I've ever wrestled," said Hammond standout Zach Halper, who has handed Stinnett both of his losses this season in three matches between the two. "He's a really good scrambler, and even when I get a shot in that's really deep and I think I can score on, somehow he can usually find a way to hold on to me and get out of it."

Stinnett, who has set a goal of winning three state titles before his high school career is complete, knows he'll have to get past Halper first. It was another Hammond wrestler, Bryce Harley, who provided the same difficult test last season when Stinnett wrestled at 112 pounds. After losing three straight decisions to Harley during the regular season, Stinnett came away with a 5-4 decision to capture the Howard County title and beat him again in the regional final, 8-3.

"One of the great things about Chris is his ability to make adjustments. He can determine why he lost, what he needs to work on, and then goes out and does it on the mat," Bowman said.

While getting that first win over Harley to take county honors is Stinnett's career highlight, his low point came in the state semifinals when he lost a 4-3 decision in the final seconds to eventual champion Casey Kamp, now a senior and two-time champion from Northern of Garrett County.

"Whenever I think about wrestling, that comes to mind," said Stinnett, who finished last season with a 31-7 mark that included 15 pins. "I was probably two seconds away I'd say from being a state champ. That motivates me and makes me want to keep on working hard."

Working hard on a daily basis is a given for Stinnett, whose practice partner at Glenelg is Dan Bichner. The fellow sophomore also took county and regional crowns before placing third at states last year. More times than not this season, each one's toughest test in a given week comes with no fans or referees around.

"We go at it pretty good, and with him pushing me and me pushing him, it helps us both," said Bichner, who is 22-4. "He's solid in all aspects and real good at tying something up and not letting you score."

Hornzell, who wrestles for UMBC's club team at 149 pounds and also is keeping a close eye on Stinnett as an assistant coach at Glenelg, is looking forward to one special match.

"I'm still waiting until we're both close to the same weight so we can wrestle each other," he said. "We're getting closer, but we can't have a real match yet. That will be great."

glenn.graham@baltsun.com

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