Nine months ago, Western Tech's Tejon Anthony became the first wrestler at the school to win the Baltimore County, Class 2A-1A North regional and state wrestling titles.
Now the junior, who won the state championship at 120 pounds after beating a three-time state champion in the semifinal, 5-4, before rolling to a 7-0 victory in the final, is seeking a second state crown as he moves up two weight classes to 132 pounds this season.
Western Tech coach Jay Solera said Anthony is a leader "by example," that his calm persona translates well to the wrestling mat and that his self confidence is key to all he has accomplished.
"He never goes on the wrestling mat believing he is going to do anything but win," Solera said. "The idea of defeat never crosses his mind. He is a rare find."
That confidence has translated to Anthony's teammates, who, Solera said, now realize a state championship can be built at the school.
"They all believe the sky is the limit," Solera said.
The 5-foot-6 Anthony carries a 3.28 grade-point average and is working toward a future in computer networking or programming.
What do you get out of wrestling?
You don't see too many famous wrestlers. You don't get in it for that. Wrestling is pretty demanding, and it takes a lot out of you physically. You've got to really want it, and I like it. It gives you discipline and toughness. And it teaches you how to persevere through obstacles. I like that. And it also brings you friends and a brotherhood.
How did you discover the sport?
I started wrestling in sixth grade because my recreation league football coach, Walter Johnson, also coached rec league wrestling. I wasn't sure I wanted to wrestle, but he lives close to me, as well, and he started picking me up and taking me to the practices at Woodlawn. I liked wrestling, but I got beat up on a lot early. But after a couple weeks, I started getting better and the next year I got into the flow.
Do you still play football?
Yes, I'm a running back and a safety. We had a decent season. We went 7-3 [in the fall]. I like football because there is a lot of contact; it's competitive and fast-paced. I like wrestling because it's more individualized, and I like the hand-to-hand contact with one person on the mat. It's a physical sport and you can't run away from your opponent. There's never really a dull moment in a wrestling match. I think the two sports go together well because of the footwork and the conditioning.
Do you have an edge when you're on the mat?
I would like to think I'm one of the fastest and strongest in my weight class.
As a sophomore last season, what did it take to win the state championship?
A lot of kids don't ever get to states. My first year in high school, I didn't have high expectations, but I thought I would be in a few matches. I was really good in ninth grade and I took third at states in junior league. And from there I worked hard and it shows. I came back from two points down in that state semifinal match. My opponent got a two-point lead in the first 30 seconds, but then I got a reversal and got him on his back for a total of five points. It means so much to me that I won and it means a lot to the school. I was the first to win counties and states and the first to win all three here.
Has winning the state title made a noticeable difference for you?
None. I still continue to work hard every day. I don't treat myself like a state champion, and I haven't had anyone change their opinion about me because I'm a state champion.
What are your expectations and goals for this season?