Mount St. Joseph junior Kevin Neville began this season as the area's most improved wrestler.
Now, he's simply the most devastating finisher.
Top-ranked at 152 pounds by the Maryland State Wrestling Association, Neville, 16, boasts a 22-2 record with 14 pins -- one shy of his total in last year's 31-6 season -- and he tops the area scoring compiled by The Baltimore Sun with 63 points.
This season just four wrestlers have gone the distance with Neville, who placed fourth in last year's National Preps.
"I've seen Kevin wrestle, and he's the best in the state," said Laurel's Chris Kluckhuhn, the MSWA's No. 3-ranked 152-pounder. "He's got some really nice throws from standing, and he's pretty dangerous on the mat. He deserves to be No. 1."
But because Neville's reputation precedes him, he's running out of guys to wrestle: He's received forfeits in three of his first four MSA league victories.
"The forfeits definitely don't help," said Neville, whose two losses came via decision in the California (Pa.) tournament to a couple of non-state wrestlers. "I go out there with the attitude that the other guy isn't going to last the match. I like to throw people, but guys have been trying not to tie up with me lately."
When he's not representing No. 2-ranked Mount St. Joseph in a match, Neville says he likes nothing better than watching, critiquing and learning more about wrestling.
"Other kids go to parties and stuff on Fridays and Saturdays. I try to find a match or a tournament to go to," said Neville, who maintains a 3.0 grade-point average. "I like wearing my jacket to tournaments. It says something: Like 'fear.' You get a lot of attention from people who see you."
Neville hasn't always attracted a lot of attention. He had limited success as a freshman at Glenelg High in Howard County, where his brother, Joe, now wrestles as a 125-pound senior. But Kevin Neville did catch the eye of Mount St. Joseph coach Paul Triplett, and he transferred to the private school before his sophomore season.
"He started wrestling with some of the best kids in the state, and you could see when he was young that he had solid skills," said Triplett, a former wrestler for the Gaels and the University of Maryland. "He spent last year working through a lot of frustrations. He was a little unsure about what he was going to be able to do here. But when he pinned his guy to get fourth place in the Nationals, I think that was the turning point."
In winning the season-opening Annapolis tournament, Neville took just one minute and 38 seconds to finish Annapolis' No. 2-ranked Chip Cochran. Cochran, a senior, was coming off last year's 32-2 Class 4A-3A state runner-up finish.
"He's beating kids he couldn't have beaten last year," said David Inkman, the Gaels' 103-pounder. "Sometimes I can't believe I'm looking at the same guy."
Neville began wrestling under coaches Mike DeSarno and Larry Hill in Montgomery County's Burtonsville junior league program, which spawned such wrestlers as Paint Branch's top-ranked, two-time state champion Craig Middledorf, and Oakland Mills' fifth-ranked Adam Seidman.
"When Kevin first came to Burtonsville, he was just all right -- not very good," said Seidman, a close friend of Neville's. "But we wrestled this summer on the Junior National cadet team, and now he's awesome."