Repeat, threepeat?

Josh Asper is Hereford's third 2-time state champion. This year, he's unbeaten in a quest to become the school's first 3-time winner.


January 17, 2007|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,Sun Reporter

A couple of weeks after becoming a two-time state champion, Hereford's Josh Asper was beaten by the opponent he might face again if he reaches the 160-pound, Class 2A-1A state final in March.

"Tyler Mullen beat me in an offseason tournament right after states, but I was able to come back and beat him later on in the summer," said Asper, who had faced the South Carroll junior before they reached high school. "I think that was the first time I had beaten him, and he's always kind of been ahead of me. In eighth grade, Tyler beat me once. And when he won states at 130 in junior league, I was second at 122."

Asper met Mullen again Jan. 9 in a battle of unbeatens. Asper scored two takedowns and a reversal to hold him off for a 7-3 decision that was Mullen's first loss in 23 matches.

Not only did Asper, a junior, remain on pace for the first unbeaten season of his high school career, but it appears another milestone is within his reach - becoming the school's first three-time state champion. He's one of only three Hereford wrestlers to win two state championships.

"Josh was very aggressive getting in on my legs, dictating more to me - not the other way around," Mullen said after his Jan. 9 loss. "That's not my style, and I'm not used to that. And I'll go ahead and say that tonight you may have seen the state championship.

"We've been friendly rivals, wrestling each other all the way up since eighth grade," said Mullen, a 2A-1A state runner-up last year at 152 pounds. "In junior league, it was usually me getting the best of him. Over the summer, we split. ... And unless I'm wrestling him, I'm rooting for him to win. I definitely want to see him at states, hopefully in the finals."

Another title would keep Asper (20-0, 10 pins) on pace to join an elite class of four-time Maryland public school champions. Aberdeen's Matt Slutzky was the first in 1992, followed in 1997 by Owings Mills' Steve Kessler, who was 148-0. This year, Hammond's Vince Taweel (135) is after his fourth straight 2A-1A state title.

Asper relishes the challenge, but he's not getting ahead of himself.

"My focus this year is to not take anyone lightly, win again, and to become the first Hereford wrestler to become a three-time state champ," said Asper, a two-time All-Metro selection..

"I talked a lot to ... Taweel over the summer when we were on the Maryland national freestyle team," said Asper, who has won 31 straight bouts dating to an 8-7 loss to Taweel last February.

Asper and third-year coach Ron Causey have been at the forefront of a return to power for the No. 10 Bulls (9-1), whose 17-1 season of a year ago included a No. 6 area ranking and a runner-up finish to four-time champion Hammond in the Class 2A-1A state dual finals.

Last year, Hereford captured its first county tournament championship since 1970, dethroning Owings Mills by a tournament-record 234 points to 178.5, eclipsing Owings Mills' 2003 scoring mark of 230.5.

Asper does his part to lead the Bulls, who won last weekend's 16-team Franklin Invitational.

"A lot of the younger guys on our team ask me questions about moves, so I do my best to help whomever asks. I'd like to think I'm helping to make the team better by helping them out," Asper said. "As a team, we're not ranked among those that are considered the top teams in the state overall, but we like that. We hope to be able to open some eyes, maybe surprise some people."

Asper, meanwhile, is the wrestler to beat at 160 pounds in Class 2A-1A, having emerged victorious from last year's double-overtime state title win over repeat state runner-up Matt Kahl of Harford Tech in a 145-pound weight class that was perhaps the 2A-1A tournament's toughest.

Asper's offseason workouts were more grueling than ever. He returned for his third season stronger and more determined, able to bench-press nearly 250 pounds and to squat-press more weight than Hereford's largest football player.

"Even with all of that, I wasn't in the best of shape for wrestling, coming out of football season," said Asper, a linebacker-running back on the Bulls' 2A regional finalist football team. "But this year, coach [Ron] Causey has us doing a lot more conditioning in wrestling practice so that I don't have to do as much outside of practice as last year. I believe that, before long, I'll be where I need to be."

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