Zeke Salvo made an impression on the Perry Hall wrestling team last season with a 36-3 record, and this year, as a sophomore, he has continued to build a strong resume in his 106-pound weight class.
At 13-0, he has his sights set on winning a state wrestling title and "becoming a more educated wrestler and more of a student of the game."
His coach, Jake Roche, describes Salvo, 15, as "the total package." He carries a 3.85 GPA, and his dedication to the sport serves as a model for the 6-0 Gators.
"He is an upper echelon wrestler in our program," Roche said. "It's once in a blue moon that someone comes through our up and coming Perry Hall program like this. With his work ethic, he's tough to beat."
Your dad, Kirk, is a wrestling coach. He was the head coach at Mount St. Joseph and now he's the assistant coach here at Perry Hall. Is being the son a coach a good thing?
It has mixed effects. It's easier to work on technique and get a coach's perspective. But you also always have someone on you. You can't slack off.
So, your dad is always on you, pushing you?
Well, not always. He goes back and forth. He congratulates me when I do something good. He goes back and forth between being a coach and a dad. Dad being a coach certainly helps my wrestling. He has really improved my wrestling and helped me be a better kid.
Do you wrestle because your dad got you into it?
My dad did get me into it at a pretty early age, and I didn't like it at first. But a year or two after I started, my competitive edge kicked in and I started liking it — around the time I got to seventh or eighth grade.
Did you try other sports?
I do soccer for school, and I played rec baseball. I think I'm done with that though, because I wrestle over the summer, too.
It seems wrestling has become a full-time sport for you. Besides your competitiveness, what is it about the sport that you really like?
I really enjoy the hard work you have to put in and the individualism of it. You can't blame a loss on someone else. You can't blame someone else when you lose or when you win. It's a hard sport. But just getting a good workout in and testing my body to its limits — I find it enjoyable. Like everyone says, "What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger."
You're ranked No. 2 in the state by the Maryland Wrestling Coaches Association. Is it irritating to be No. 2 and not No. 1?
Not irritating. A ranking is a ranking. I think it's nice that someone would rank me that high. I really think wrestling is a whole different story from rankings. Absolutely anything can happen in a match. A nobody can pin the No. 1 kid. You can be the one beaten by the nobody. Consistency is the most important thing. You have to go out and wrestle your heart out every match, against every kid. In the match, records don't matter.
Are you involved in other activities at or away from school?
Wrestling is pretty much what I do. I really enjoy it. It has brought me along and given me quite a childhood and adolescence so far. I definitely want to continue with it. Wrestling can shape the way you live. I've gotten into a rhythm. I try to get my homework done early so I can play and work out. You know you feel almost superior to everyone else. Well, not superior, but most fit. But wrestling doesn't [always] have the best, most accepted viewpoint from the public. You know it is one of the hardest sports out there.
Did it come easy to you?
It was a year to a year and a half [into] wrestling when the results started to come. I wasn't doing anything different. I was working hard, but I'd been working hard. But the results just started to come. I started winning. I learned that I hate losing. I hate to lose more than I like to win.
What's your favorite wrestling move?
My type of wrestling is going for the low single. You pretty much shoot to [the opponent's] ankle, secure it and work your way up their body to get the two points for the takedown. Or, you can pop out behind them and get the two points that way.
What do you call your dad at practice and what's the most important thing he's taught you?
Most of my teammates call dad "Professor." I call him Dad. The most important thing he's taught me, really, is to always keep an open perspective and listen. To be a good kid.