Glen Burnie wrestling coach Bruce Sider doesn't measure success in terms of wins and losses.
And with his Gophers sporting a 0-12 record, few can blame him.
"People outside of the sport don't realize the rewards that come in coaching wrestling," said Sider, a 10-year coaching veteran, who has enjoyed watching several of his team members overcome personal anddomestic problems, which pale in comparison to a wrestling match.
"I get kids that are borderline kids with extreme family situations,that I get to help in a different way. I get kids with discipline and academic problems in school, and I get to help these kids, and that's been a great thing for me. We've got hungry kids in Glen Burnie who want to succeed and don't know how. Hopefully I'm teaching them a lesson in life."
One lesson that Sider admittedly has learned as a coach is that there is no substitute for experience. Over the past decade, Sider has seen Glen Burnie's wrestling team go from one of the top 10 teams in the area to one that finds itself struggling to avoidembarrassing shutouts.
"I saw this (the decline in Glen Burnie's wrestling program) coming years ago," said Sider, who no longer has the privilege of feeding off talent from the former junior high programs at now Marley and Corkran middle schools. "My kids that wrestle here now have never stepped on a wrestling mat until Nov. 15. They've had no exposure to the sport.
"We used to get kids from Marley and Corkran, and that was the foundation of our wrestling program. That no longer exists. I saw that coming and couldn't do anything about it.I don't have the time to get a junior league started."
While county powers Old Mill, Broadneck and Annapolis nurture off youth organizations from Millersville, Crofton, Cape St. Claire and the Green Hornets, Glen Burnie and several other county schools struggle to not only field a team but to teach their grapplers the basic fundamentals ofthe sport.
"I think a junior league in the area would help the team, but it's not a necessity," said Sider, who coached two 167-pound state champions in Marty Lewis (1986) and Abbas Sabur (1987). "I can deal with kids coming out in the ninth grade and teaching them how towrestle. I can make a county champion out of a kid by his senior year if he has some ability."
One Glen Burnie wrestler that has shownsome ability and savored a fair share of success in the process is 160-pound junior John Wehn. Wehn, who took up the sport only two yearsago and boasts a 10-7 record, often finds himself in the unenviable position of having to win to avoid a team shutout.
Too much pressure? Sider doesn't think so.
"John just goes out and does his best," said his coach. "He knows that he was probably our best chance to score some points but he was no sure thing for points anyway. He's learning how to wrestle, but he uses his natural strength to advantage. He has the most athletic ability out of everyone on the team and the most natural strength."
Unfortunately, Wehn's natural strength didhim little good Jan. 25, when he injured his ankle in a tri-meet with with Chesapeake and Queen Anne's. He since has returned to practiceand is preparing for the first round of the county tournament slatedto begin Wednesday.
"The kids John wrestles here (in practice) lack experience so he doesn't get to work against someone with comparable size or quickness," said Sider. "What he does do, however, is workaround it by wrestling heavier kids for strength and lighter guys towork on his quickness."
In practice, Wehn spars with middle-weights Rick Gordon (145) and Tony Norfolk (140) to work on his quickness and then takes to the mat with sophomore heavyweight Paul Musil for strength. While this is not an ideal situation, Wehn makes do under the circumstances.
For now, Sider, too, is making the necessary adjustments in his approach to coaching his less-experienced bunch.
"In the past years I worked real hard getting the kids in condition, but this year I had to change my coaching philosophy a bit and focus more on teaching," said Sider. "The kids were going out two days a week, in front of their peers and in front of their parents, and they were getting stuck. They were getting their butts whipped enough, and I didn't think they needed to get their butts whipped by me during the week."
How bad or how good Glen Burnie will be in future is a tough call. The Gophers are taking their lumps this year, but in listening to Wehn one safely can say they're taking it all in stride.
"A lot of people think we're a pushover, but we're better than everybody thinks," said Wehn. "We have a lot of young guys but they're tough and they're aggressive. We have a lot of guys around .500 this year, but hopefully by next year we'll all blossom."