Northeast sweeps honors Kusick twins, Coach Kohlhafer had right stuff


Northeast coach Al Kohlhafer's wrestlers had just won the 2A-1A state title, his second after leading the Eagles to the county's first state crown in 1976.

The Eagles had placed six of the nine qualifying wrestlers in the top four, including three state champs: the sophomore Kusick twins, Marty (103 pounds, 34-0) and Mike (112, 33-1), and senior Al Grunder (160, 27-7).

The Eagles' 120 points were five shy of the 2A-1A record set by Owings Mills two years ago, but the 23-year coach wasn't about to go to Disneyland, or anywhere else, to announce his glory.

He just wanted to go home and enjoy it with his wrestlers and assistant coaches Bill Royer, Duane Talley and Chuck Yocum.

"That's typical of him. He's the most humble guy," said Yocum of Kohlhafer, the Baltimore Sun's 1992-93 Anne Arundel County Coach of the Year. "I'm sure he appreciates [being Coach of the Year], but he'll just play it off like it's no big deal. He wants nothing for himself."

He'd rather thank the Buccaneers' junior league program, run by Bob and Rick Couch, Mike Wilbourn and Grady and Rex Miller. Or the team's trainer, Rob Patterson.

"But there was a different side of him at this pep rally we had," said Yocum, recounting how Kohlhafer gave an impassioned speech before appearing to dump a runner-up trophy -- actually an old baseball trophy -- into a trash can.

"He told everyone that second best wasn't good enough for us. The way he presented it just incited the whole student body. It was a side of him you rarely see."

While the Eagles (12-1) were erasing the memory of recent 2-12 and 6-7 seasons, Kohlhafer preferred to divert attention to his wrestlers, such as the Kusicks, The Baltimore Sun's Anne Arundel County co-Wrestlers of the Year.

Marty brought a 24-0-1 record into last year's state meet, but stumbled to a third-place finish after losing, 7-4, to North Carroll's eventual state champ, Jeremy Myers.

Mike (28-2) came within a point of winning the state crown, losing the title bout, 4-3, to Damascus' Kendall Lloyd, who edged him for the Region III crown a week earlier.

"We were like, 'There goes our four titles,' " Marty said. "But we still want to be three-time champs."

Their desire burned through an entire summer of workouts with the Cadet National team. Each wrestled a weight class higher during the season -- Mike at 119 and Marty at 112 -- to help the team.

"They were just so intense and focused this year," said Kohlhafer. "They had fire in their eyes."

Marty captured the Arundel, Chesapeake and Broadneck tournament crowns, and Mike nearly duplicated his efforts, with the exception of a runner-up finish at Arundel.

Marty's 8-7 victory over DeMatha's top-ranked Todd Beckerman (103, 52-1, 42 pins) was the only blemish on the record of the eventual National Prep champ.

In the state tournament, they both downed North Carroll wrestlers who entered with 30-0 records: Marty edged Doug Dell, 4-1, and Mike avenged Marty's loss of a year earlier, 8-2, over Myers (30-1).

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