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Liberty senior wrester Jake Griffin talks about his success this season.

Liberty High School’s Jake Griffin struggled with change last year.

After solid freshman and sophomore wrestling seasons, Griffin jumped up five weight classes to 152 pounds. It proved to be too much at times.

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Griffin lost twice as many matches as he did during his sophomore year, and failed to qualify for the state tournament.

“I think he felt a lot of pressure to succeed,” Liberty coach Logan Yox recalled.

As far Griffin is concerned, he is making a point this season to maintain a positive attitude and stay as calm as possible this season. The change in tone is producing results.

Griffin is a sparking 28-1 with 25 pins at 170, and has some eye-catching tournament results.

“Honestly, there is no stress,” Griffin said. “I am looser. There is nothing to worry about. This is my last year of wrestling. I know I am done after this year. I just go out and wrestle. This year, I am not worried as much about how I do, and that actually has been helping me.”

Liberty's Jake Griffin wrestles Winters Mill's Trevor Fawley in the 170-pound weight class.
Liberty's Jake Griffin wrestles Winters Mill's Trevor Fawley in the 170-pound weight class. (KEN KOONS/STAFF PHOTO)

The biggest change centers around the postseason.

For one thing, he’s almost certain to qualify for the state tournament in Upper Marlboro in March with the way he’s wrestling.

And Yox said the chances are good that Griffin, who also has his eye on a regional and county championship, will make a huge splash.

“I think Jake has the ability to win a state title,” Yox said of the three-time county runner-up, whose lone loss this season came against Severn senior Jake Jarosz.

Griffin faced Jarosz, one of the top-ranked wrestlers in his weight class, and fell 7-6. Jarosz is fourth in the latest Maryland State Wrestling Association rankings for private schools, and ninth overall. Griffin is sixth in 2A-1A and 19th overall.

“I believe I can (win a state title),” Griffin said. “I am wrestling much better than I have ever wrestled.”

It might have been the first sign that an exciting 2017-18 season was ahead when Griffin went 8-0 in the Duals at Westminster in late December. He followed that up about two weeks later by winning his 100th career match and going 6-0 at the Iron Horse Duals in Bel Air.

“It was pretty awesome to reach 100 because I had a missed a lot of time throughout the years due to injuries,” Griffin said of his sophomore and junior campaigns.

Griffin, who also plays lacrosse and football for the Lions, could become Liberty’s second all-time wins leader if he finishes the season with a flourish. He ranks behind Joe Kuegler (130) and Dan Markosky (122) with 110 career wins.

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Liberty's Jake Griffin scrimmages at Winters Mill High School December 2, 2017.
Liberty's Jake Griffin scrimmages at Winters Mill High School December 2, 2017. (KEN KOONS/STAFF PHOTO)

“I am going to keep striving to win and hopefully I get to that spot,” said Griffin, who placed sixth in the state as a freshman at 106. “I can’t get first. Even though it’s not first, it’s still pretty big deal to be the second leading leader scoring at Liberty. But I would rather go much farther at states than have a school record.”

Liberty’s coaching staff keeps pointing to his attitude as Griffin’s turning point.

“He has just gotten better just because he is more mentally prepared to go out there and get the job done,” Yox said. “A lot of people wouldn’t say wrestling is fun, but he is having more fun with it this season than he was last year.”

Added Liberty assistant wrestling coach Matt Kuegler, Joe’s brother: “I think coming in with a fresh attitude has made his training a lot more efficient than it has in the past. He is able to compete to the best of his ability consistently.”

Yox also raves about Griffin’s leadership skills as he grows during his third season as the Lions’ co-captain.

“A lot of kids have followed his example because of his work ethic in the room and how he stays composed,” Yox explained. “He’s been great for the team.”

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