Hereford High graduate Josh Asper has been eager to do something this summer that he wasn't able to do during the past two — work out.
Asper needed thumb surgery in 2010 and last year had a knee operation. Both procedures kept him from training for long periods.
That left the Parkton resident frustrated, given that year-round training is part of an elite wrestler's makeup.
That's all changed this summer now that the University of Maryland rising senior is healthy again.
Looking for high-tournament finishes, Asper is convinced that off-season work will take him to the next level.
The 6-foot Asper finished sixth in the NCAA tournament the past two winters at 165 pounds, but he's clearly poised to do better than that.
"I really want to train this summer and prepare for the season," said Asper, who has a 131-25 career record for the Terrapins. "It really gives me a chance to get better. I want to win a national championship."
That's already happened, considering he captured the 174-pound championship in the ASICS University & FILA Cadet National Championships at the University of Akron in early June.
He won six matches to claim the title, including beating University of Illinois All-American Conrad Polz in a semifinal and ex-Ohio State grappler Colton Sponseller in the final.
"It's definitely an accomplishment and he is the first Maryland wrestler to win the University Nationals," Maryland wrestling coach Kerry McCoy said. "He is one of the toughest guys in the country. It's all about taking steps in the right direction and he is doing that. Every year, he is getting better and better.
"He has put himself in a position to be the first Maryland wrestler to be on the University World team and place at the University World Games," the coach added.
For the 22-year-old Asper to advance to the World University Games in Finland in early October, he will have to drop weight to grab the 163-pound championship Aug. 18 in the World Team Trials in Colorado Springs.
Asper likes his chances.
"Most of the people who are going to the be at the World Team Trials were at University National Championships," he explained. "I just really want to make the World Team."
McCoy said Asper's previous experience in the World Team Trials will give him an edge on opponents.
"He took third or fourth overall a couple of years ago," McCoy noted. "Ultimately, everything comes down to the NCAA Tournament for him, and this is something to help him get one step closer to that title."
Asper will stay in close touch with Hereford High assistant Brett Baier about his training and off-season tournaments.
Baier could talk all day about Asper, the 2008 North County News Athlete of the Year and the only Hereford wrestler to compete in Division I in school history.
Asper finished his Bulls' career with four state titles and a 151-7 record.
"He works out like it's a job," Baier said. "He is always in the gym."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun