Gripping tales from wrestling tourney

March 13, 2006|By GREGORY KANE

So much wrestling, so many stories and only one column to put them all in.

Here goes.

History was made at the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association wrestling tournament - incorrectly called the "Maryland State Wrestling Tournament" by MPSSAA bigwigs - earlier this month. Tourney attendees got to see Trevon Jenifer take third place in the 103-pound weight class for 4A/3A schools.

Jenifer just completed his second year of wrestling. Many of his opponents had an edge in experience because they started wrestling perhaps as young as 8 or 9 years old in Maryland's junior leagues. But that wasn't what was extraordinary about Jenifer's achievement.

The senior from Huntingtown High School in Calvert County was born without legs. Jenifer overcame obstacles few other wrestlers have to face. And Thursday night Jenifer took home a silver medal at the Maryland State Wrestling Association Senior All-Star Meet at River Hill High School in Howard County. State 2A/1A 103-pound champion Robbie Eloshway of Atholton High School needed a takedown in overtime to beat Jenifer for the gold medal.

But for every achievement, there are some naysayers. One of the attendees at the all-star meet told me some character in an Internet chat room - some people should just not be allowed online - claimed that Jenifer had an advantage over his opponents because his upper body is built like that of a 145-pounder.

"Maybe it's just me," the guy at the meet said, "but I'd rather have the legs."

So would Trevon Jenifer, I'd be willing to bet. Congratulations, Trevon, on being a credit to a sport its fans feel is the greatest ever.

Also making history was a wrestler in the 4A/3A 112-pound weight class. No, tournament attendees didn't see a typo when they read the name "Helen Maroulis" 11 notches down on the bracket sheet. "Helen" is the wrestler's real first name, and she is a girl.

She also placed sixth at 112 pounds, becoming the first female to place in the MPSSAA wrestling tournament. And it was no fluke.

I printed out the bracket sheets from the MPSSAA regional and state tournaments. Maroulis competed in the 4A/3A west region. She came in with a record of 27 wins and only five losses. She pinned her first opponent, Jason Chen of Springbrook High School in Montgomery County. Chen was no slouch himself. He had a record of 19 wins and seven losses.

Sean McCarty of Northwest High School in Montgomery County - who would win the regional and then place third in the state tournament - pinned Maroulis in the next round. But Maroulis came back to beat Jason Lessans of Wootton High School and Joe Hancher of Walt Whitman High School in the consolations to place third in the regionals.

Hancher won 23 matches this season. Lessans won 35.

At the state 4A/3A public school tournament, Maroulis won by injury default over the more than capable Jarrid Bosque of Chesapeake High School in Anne Arundel County. Then Edwin Randall of Northern High School in Calvert County pinned Maroulis, but it took him five minutes and 29 seconds of a six-minute match to do it. (By comparison, Randall pinned Mervo's Lamone Wilson in only one minute and 32 seconds.)

Maroulis then went on her reign of terror in the consolation bracket. She beat Hancher for the second time in as many weeks by a score of 16-4. She beat her next opponent by four points and then lost to McCarty again and then to Bosque to place sixth.

When Maroulis was done, she had beaten, in two weeks, five guys who had won a total of 138 matches among them. Three of her four losses in that stretch were to guys who eventually placed second and third in the 4A/3A state public school tournament. Maroulis is just a ninth-grader. By the time she starts dating, any guy getting out of line with her might get a bent-leg Turk ride slapped on him.

Although history was made at the state public schools tournament, Maryland wrestling fans ended the season on a sad note. We lost the guy known as "Mr. Chip."

Gennaro "Jerry" Chiapparelli died in late February. Bruce Malinowski, who was a state wrestling champion for Kenwood High School in 1977 and 1979, simply called Chiapparelli "Mr. Chip." Malinowski said that "Mr. Chip" did far more than father two sons named Louis and Rico, who would go on to high school wrestling glory at Mount St. Joseph High School.

"He was very instrumental in wrestling in eastern Baltimore County," Malinowski said.

These days Malinowski is a wrestling referee. He served as rules interpreter for the MPSSAA tourney. Malinowski e-mailed me his tribute to "Mr. Chip" shortly after he died.

"I had the privilege of wrestling Rico in a junior league Christmas tournament," Malinowski wrote. "After our match, which I happened to win, Mr. Chip came over to my dad and myself and said that I should think about wrestling in the spring."

After Malinowski beat Rico a second time, "Mr. Chip" told Malinowski's dad that his son "must have some kind of talent." Malinowski took up spring and summer wrestling and the rest, as the saying goes, is grappling history.

"I owe a lot to that gum-chewing man who played football for Bear Bryant," Malinowski said of Gennaro Chiapparelli. Every Maryland wrestling fan does. And every Maryland wrestling fan should pause a second to bid a silent farewell.

Goodbye, "Mr. Chip."

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