Drills power Arundel pair

Justin Bowser and George Ester push each other with high-intensity battles in practice sessions.


When wrestlers George Ester and Justin Bowser arrived at Arundel High School as freshmen in 2002, their matches in practice were not kind to Ester.

Bowser, who entered high school as a decorated junior league standout, showed little mercy on the beginner, throwing Ester around and pinning him at will.

"He beat [me senseless]," Ester recalled. "He would pin me in, like, seconds."

But each beating that Bowser delivered hardened Ester. Every time that Bowser scored, it gave Ester motivation to improve.

Eventually, the practice matches began to get closer.

"We're even now, most of the time," Bowser, a two-time Class 4A-3A state champion at 125 pounds and Anne Arundel County's all-time winningest wrestler, said. "Our styles are real similar. It's almost like I'm wrestling myself."

With Bowser as his practice partner Ester (119 pounds) is perhaps the most improved wrestler in the state this season.

Ester (40-2 record) went from placing fourth in the county and third in the 4A-3A East region last year to winning both titles this season and placing third in the state. He's knocked off two state finalists - La Plata's state runner-up Dane Orzechowski and Archbishop Spalding's state champ Chris Laidley - and came within a point of beating a third, Sherwood's state champion Andy Lowy.

Meanwhile, Bowser, who is ranked No. 1 by the Maryland State Wrestling Association, has continued to dominate competition throughout the state, as he has since his freshman year.

Bowser, who is 38-1 this season, recently broke Anne Arundel County's all-time wins mark of 138 set by Old Mill's Doug West in 2004. Bowser is now 147-7 in his career.

Ester's rapid improvement has been a benefit to Bowser, who now has a top-level drill partner to sharpen himself against. Where Bowser, a stocky, powerful wrestler, is strong, Ester is slick.

"George is the most improved wrestler over a season that I've ever seen," Dahl Bowser, Justin's father, said. "He's got this `I'm not going to lose' attitude, and Justin has the same thing. They keep going until the last minute. There's no quit in either of them."

Now, when Ester and Bowser drill and wrestle in practice, it's no longer a one-sided beating. It's a high-intensity battle between two of the state's finest.

"It's hard to get a takedown on him," Bowser said. "He makes me use technique rather than strength."

Said Skip Ester, George's father: "Those two, when they're going at it in the room, almost nobody's getting a takedown. It's beautiful to watch. Bowser has made George better over the years, and now it's making Bowser a lot better, too. Having someone like George, who is not going to give up, it helps push Bowser, and, of course, it's fun to watch."

Bowser's excellence has been a motivator for Ester to improve, his father said. "He saw Bowser win the state title last year and he said, `Why not me?' " Skip Ester said.

So, with his mother and father, George Ester hit the road. The family traveled to Pennsylvania, North Carolina and New Jersey in search of top-level wrestling competition. Over the summer, Ester competed in nearly 50 matches.

"I was taking him to places so he could get matches with the best," Skip Ester said. "We were seeking out people that would push him. Yeah, he took his lumps and he got beat. But he learned a lot from it."

George Ester agreed. "If I didn't do all those wrestling tournaments this summer, I'd probably get beaten pretty bad," he said.

As intense as Ester and Bowser are wrestling each other, the two seniors are just as physical with their opponents. They both adhere to Arundel coach Billy Royer's system, which stresses relentless attacking from the neutral position.

The Arundel wrestlers who adopt his style inevitably turn into takedown specialists who keep constant pressure on their opponent while competing on their feet.

"Justin is where he's at today because of Billy Royer," Dahl Bowser said. "The things he does for these kids is incredible. He inspires them. He gets the best of them. I don't know where or how anybody else could have ever gotten more out of Justin.

"That hard-nosed attitude Royer teaches is now a part of their life: `Go out there and bang and go 100 percent. Everything you got, wide open all the time.' "

As the Esters have become more dedicated to wrestling - driving their son all over the East Coast - the Arundel team and coaches have grown closer together, Royer said.

"The Esters made wrestling a family thing this summer, just like the Bowsers had," Royer said. "Wrestling is something the family shares now. The whole Arundel wrestling team shares in Justin and George's success, too. It's like I tell the guys, `Your teammates are your real friends. These are the guys who are there for you.' I feel like I'm a part of the Ester family and they're a part of my family, too."

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