Ron Muir has an angry past.
He blames his "short fuse" for the premature end to an otherwise solid high school wrestling career, his failure to graduate from Glen Burnie and the deterioration of his relationship with his parents.
His best grades came during a freshman year at Marley Junior Highin which he was a B student and a county wrestling champion. Over the next three years, however, social workers and counselors were his constant companions.
Once, during his junior year, he was arrested for having a fight with his father. Assault charges later were dropped.
His parents kicked him out of their home in his sophomore, junior and senior years, evicting him permanently when he was a senior.
"My goal as a senior was to win the state tournament. So, when I got kicked out of the regionals and my parents threw everything out, that was like a double-whammy," says Muir, 19, who lives with a friend in Glen Burnie.
"After that, everything fell apart. I didn't want to set foot back inside the school."
Through it all, however, Muirsupported himself with odd jobs and kept finding his way to the wrestling mats, beating the likes of North Carroll's two-time state champion Dave Foster and Old Mill state champion Brad Buckley.
In May, Muir earned a chance to compete in the July 29 through Aug. 4 U.S. Freestyle Wrestling national tournament in Missouri. The meet also gives him the opportunity to redeem himself.
"Going to the nationals is going to give me a chance to make up for the mistakes that I made,"says Muir, who attended night school this past spring but still is 11/2 credits shy of his high school diploma.
Muir will wrestle at 143 pounds, using this Sunday's Maryland State Games at the University of Maryland at Baltimore County as a tuneup.
"I know that wrestling can't be my life -- I'm already registered for 13 credits at (Anne Arundel Community College) in the fall," says Muir, who wants to major in physical therapy. "I know that the only way I'm going to make a living is to earn a college degree. If I never wrestle in college, that'll be fine. For now, this (nationals) is all I really want."
But if you ask Old Mill graduate Bill Royer, Muir's mentor and tormentor during brutal practice sessions, college wrestling is Muir's mealticket.
"He's already beating a lot of guys who are going to college on scholarships, and I think he has the potential to earn a college scholarship himself," says Royer, a freestyle national champion and a former All-American at Westchester (N.Y.) University.
In the freestyle qualifying tournament at Friends School in May, Muir dominated the tournament's toughest field to capture the 150-pound crown.
Among his six victims were Northeast regional freestyle champion RobLord, Mount St. Joseph's Maryland Scholastic Association champion Chad Votta and Northeast Regional Greco-Roman champ Danny DeVivo. Lord and Votta both were pinned -- Votta lasted just a minute and 40 seconds.
With his one-point victory over South River graduate and two-time Class 4A state tournament runner-up Brian Hunt, Muir's stalled career was given a jump start.
It was Hunt, ironically, against whomMuir wrestled in the match that ended his high school career.
Twoyears ago, flagrant misconduct forced the bitter end to Muir's regional semifinal bout with Hunt when each wrestler was in his junior season. The ruling disqualified Muir from the state tournament the following weekend.
"What made it so tough was that I had beaten Brian Hunt earlier in the year," says Muir, whose ouster came a week after acontroversial, 7-4, county championship loss to Southern's Jason Braithwait, an eventual state champion.
"I remember losing five points because of bad calls in that match with Braithwait. (Braithwait) even told me after the match that he thought that I had won, but that did me a lot of good when he had the championship medal."
Muir still is somewhat resentful about both his wrestling shortcomings and hisparents.
"We talk every once in a while, whenever he stops by," says Sandy Muir, Ron's mother. "If he ever approached me about our relationship, I'd have no problem talking about it."
Says Royer: "I think he's starting to put his past behind him, but thinking about it drives him to work harder."
Muir practices with guys like Randallstown's 171-pound state champion Mike Jensen, cycles four or five nights a week and runs three to five miles a day. His training regimen iscrammed between jobs with the United Postal Service and a swimming pool company.
"It's good to see that he's supporting himself and handling all of his own affairs, but he still has a great deal of maturing to do," Sandy says. "He's still too self-centered. Instead of letting someone else give him praise, he praises himself first."
Cockiness is a trademark of a confident wrestler. In fact, says Royer, some of the best wrestlers go out on the mat with an angry sort of intensity.
Most times in the past, however, Muir was just plain angry.
"I think my temper really held me back, ability-wise," he says. "You sit back and you realize that, yes, you did do some things wrong.Then, when you make the (necessary) changes, it helps you to grow up."