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St. Mary's wrestler Phil MacWilliams can indicate with his index finger the number of Maryland Scholastic Association tournament champions that have come from his school.

"Just one," said MacWilliams, a senior. "Heavyweight Jeff Bunker, when I was a freshman."

Many project MacWilliams, who has a 20-3 record with eight pins and five technical falls, as St. Mary's second champion of the three-day MSA tournament, which begins Feb. 13.

"I think he'll take the MSAs," said 135-pound defending MSA champion Shane McCarthy, a Pasadena resident who wrestles for Baltimore's perennial MSA power Mount St.Joseph.

Although MacWilliams has lost twice to McCarthy at 135 pounds, he is unbeaten in nine matches at 130, where McCarthy expects McDonogh's slender Mark Wilson to be MacWilliams' toughest challenge.

"I've seen (Wilson) wrestle, and he's pretty good. But I think MacWilliams is better and he'll beat that guy," McCarthy said flatly. "Phil's already pretty strong, but I think he'll be stronger at 130."

MacWilliams' strength was evident during his third varsity footballseason last fall, when he played as a defensive lineman in the Saints' wide-tackle-six.

"He had a couple of sacks. He was very tough,"said football and wrestling coach Brad Best. "He pushes himself to be the best that he can be."

MacWilliams is St. Mary's representative next month for the National Football Foundation's Hall of Fame Scholar-Athlete award.

Not only is MacWilliams among the best at his wrestling weight, he's among the best in the classroom, where he ranks 25th among 125 students. Through 3 1/2 years and nine college preparatory honors courses, MacWilliams has maintained a cumulative 3.7 grade-point average and has scored 1110 on his Scholastic Aptitude Test.

MacWilliams has been accepted to The Citadel and the Virginia Military Institute, but is waiting to hear from the Air Force Academy.

"I want to be a pilot. That's my dream," said MacWilliams.

"ButI'm also planning to wrestle in some freestyle tournaments this spring because I want to wrestle in college," MacWilliams said.

That'ssomething his older brother, 135-pound Mac, didn't do after finishing third in the MSA tournament and fifth in the National Preps a year ago. Now majoring in music at Northwestern University, Mac completed his senior season with a 36-6-2 record after competing in the season-ending Senior All-Star Classic, sponsored by the Maryland State Wrestling Association.

In the classic, Mac was one of seven gold medal winners for the MSA-Independents team, which defeated both the Class 4A-3A and 2A-1A squads to win the event for the first time since its inception five years ago.

While county wrestlers left the event with an overall 5-7-3 record with just one other gold medalist, Mac beat South Hagerstown's top-ranked Class 2A-1A state tournament runner-up Doug Stottlemeyer, 8-5, and tied Queen Anne's Brian Mackey (third in the Class 4A-3A state tournament), who earlier had beaten Mac, 2-1.

"My brother and I always pushed each other, but it was never like, 'I can do better than you.' I don't go to tournaments trying to do what he did," said Phil, who recently captured the Friends tournamenttitle after placing third in the Annapolis and Archbishop Curley tourneys.

"If I finish third at a tournament that Mac won, it doesn'tbother me. I just try to do the best that I can for myself. I'm usually satisfied if I know I've done my best."

"Phil's not a pinner like his brother, but he's a very good, smart counter wrestler," Best said. "His matches are usually very close, but if you make a mistake,then you're in trouble."

A mistake by Riverdale Baptist's No. 6 Dwight Cooke cost Cooke a victory against MacWilliams, who trailed, 6-3, before catching Cooke on his back with a five-point takedown that put him ahead, 8-6. Cooke eventually lost, 8-7.

"Beating Cooke really brought my confidence up," said MacWilliams. "I thought I wrestled even better at the Annapolis tournament the next week, even though I was up at 135. Cooke went down to 130 and won the title, but I wanted to be ranked."

MacWilliams has yet to be ranked, but he is well-respected.

"Phil has really improved a lot since last year and he's getting better," said Mount St. Joseph's top-ranked Kevin Neville (152), who witnessed MacWilliams' victory over Cooke. "If he's as good as when I last saw him, then he should be in the top two of the MSAs -- if he doesn't win it."

MacWilliams went 29-5 as a sophomore, when he placed fifth in the MSA tournament. He went 23-7 last year, including 3-1 and 4-2 losses to Broadneck's No. 3 Duke Koblinsky, but failed to place in last year's MSAs.

"This year, I think I can beat anybody if I keep my head on straight," said MacWilliams. "I've never been mentally there enough to beat the really good guys like this year. I don't see myself losing any more."

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