Growing talent

Bel Air's Matt Cross gained 3 inches and 21 pounds over the past year, and his skills on the mat are keeping pace


February 25, 2007|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,Special To The Sun

After finding success wrestling at 119 pounds last year, Bel Air junior Matt Cross moved up to 140 this season after a growth spurt.

Going up four weight classes is unusual, but it hasn't fazed Cross. He won his first Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference championship last weekend, improving his record to a career-best 34-1.

But Cross already showed he could adjust to major changes. Cross was home-schooled from kindergarten through eighth grade, and getting used to life at Bel Air High School two years ago initially presented a challenge.

"Waking up in the morning was a big adjustment," Cross said with a laugh. "But it didn't take me too long to get used to it -- about a month.

"People always ask me what is better, home-schooling or public schools, and I usually tell them they both have their ups and downs," Cross said. "In public schools, you get to socialize. In home schools, it's not as tedious."

His father, Matt Cross Sr., is a strong proponent of home schooling, but he realized how much wrestling means to his son and is glad he went to Bel Air.

"I think it's an important activity for him, and I wanted to give him the opportunity to do it," his father said. "We had basically planned that when he got to high school age, he'd go to high school. It's worked out well.

Matt Cross, the second of eight children, ages of 2 to 18, had been home-schooled along with his siblings.

Their mother, Becky Cross, said that home schooling has not in any way limited her children. She said that Matt and her other children often played with neighborhood children and would take part in different programs after their daily schoolwork was done.

Matt and two of his brothers took a liking to wrestling. He started when he was 9, and both of his younger brothers also will eventually come to Bel Air and wrestle.

"Sports have helped him adjust at [Bel Air]," Becky Cross said. "He's settled in really well."

Matt Cross said wrestling played a big role in helping him be accepted socially as a freshman. He carved a niche for himself by earning a starting spot on the varsity team and posting a 30-8 record while wrestling, mostly at 112.

Cross qualified for the state tournament that season and did even better last year at 119. He finished 33-7 and again made the state tournament.

Determined to do even better this season, he trained hard throughout the spring and summer, then got in even better shape by running on Bel Air's cross country team last fall.

He grew 3 inches -- to 5 foot 10 -- and his weight jumped to about 140, which gave him more strength, power and confidence during his matches. It's a big reason Cross won the UCBAC title, and needs just five more wins to set a school record for career victories, despite being a junior.

"I think I'm stronger this year," Cross said. "I didn't feel as strong last year. I feel like I can handle guys better now."

Cross constantly looks to improve his skills, with a work ethic that impresses Bel Air coach Craig Reddish.

Reddish knew Cross from his Bel Air junior wrestling days and served as somewhat of a mentor. He took Cross to camps and to see high school matches so he could get a feel for wrestling at a higher level.

"He just loves everything about wrestling, and there's not a person that works harder in our room, period," Reddish said. "He does not feel he's above anybody or anything. He's just tenacious, and he'll just keep coming after you and after you."

Reddish praised Cross, a team captain, for his willingness to help other members of the team as well as for his tireless work ethic.

"He is a complete delight and treasure to work with as he has a humble, unique personality," Reddish said. "He definitely has his priorities straight."

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