Catonsville's Naseef Kareem is a three-sport athlete who plays football in the fall and lacrosse in the spring, but he's best known as a wrestler. The senior is the top seed at 220 pounds in the Class 4A-3A North region tournament that will be held Saturday at Westminster. He transferred from City after his freshman year and wrestled mostly on junior varsity at Catonsville as a sophomore. He has 64 wins over the past two seasons and has won three tournaments and finished second four times during that span, including at the most recent Baltimore County tournament, when he lost to unbeaten Ravil Aliyez of Pikesville in the finals.
Kareem recently sat down to talk about his wrestling career.
What do you remember about your first match?
I got pinned very quickly.
Do you remember your first win?
It was against another freshman — and he was bad just like me — and I pinned him and I was excited that I won, but I knew that he was just as bad as me.
How many wins did you have freshman year at City?
I think I only had about eight wins.
What attracted you to wrestling?
At first it was something to do in the winter, but then I started getting better at it and being more committed to it.
Of the three sports you play, which one is your favorite?
With 64 wins the past two years, what do you think the real difference was when you turned it around and got to the state tournament?
I had more confidence in myself and I put in a lot of offseason work and I was more confident that I would be more successful my junior year.
What has been the most satisfying victory of your career?
When I won my match in regionals to get into states my junior year, that really gave me a big confidence boost that I can really go further in my career.
Do you remember who it was against?
I think it was against Kyle Pennewell from Perry Hall. When I first faced him in the counties, I only beat him by two points, but in the regionals I think I pinned him in like 30 seconds.
What has been the toughest loss of your career?
It was definitely the one in the  county [tournament]. It didn't go out as I planned and I just got caught in a bad situation, and [Aliyez] took advantage of it and that was a very tough one on me.
Do you have any superstitions or things you do before a match?
The thing my team notices me for is wearing red. I wear a lot of red things. I started doing that as soon as I got my red shoes for wrestling.
Is there something you do to cut weight?
I can't eat as much as I used to before wrestling season, and during practice I usually wear a hoodie or something so I can keep my weight in check.
You've won three tournaments and had four runner-up finishes the past two years. What's it like to stand at the top of the podium?
To me it feels like I can do much better than being a runner-up most of the time, but I feel like I'm up there with some of these guys who are ranked high in the state.
What is your goal for this weekend's regional tournament at Westminster?
I plan to go to the finals and try my very best to defeat the Urbana kid [Andres Silva] and hopefully go to states.
You have 29 wins this year after 35 last year. Is 30 wins a milestone for you or do you just want to get to states, no matter how?
Last year my objective was just to get to states and this year my objective is to place [top six] in states.
Do you plan to wrestle in college?
I plan to go to Heidelberg University in Ohio.
Was football, when you got started in both sports in the ninth grade, the sport you thought you would play in college?
Yeah, during my ninth grade year I thought I could build on football, but wrestling became the more attractive option for me.