When Saidrick Lewis stepped on the wrestling mat for North Carroll last season, he looked untouchable.
Lewis had everything going for him physically: quickness, strength, skills and a certain grace on the mat.
But the results (22-9 at 152 pounds) didn't always support the talent level. Something was missing.
"I didn't have my head screwed on right last season," said Lewis about his junior season. "I fooled around with my talent. I had everything but didn't use it. I paid too much attention to the crowd. They were out there cheering for me, so I said let's impress them."
By doing that, Lewis said he lost focus and relied mostly on one lateral move and power to handle opponents.
"Saidrick had all the moves last season, but he didn't have the confidence to use them and he heard the crowd too much," said North Carroll coach Dick Bauerlein.
"Now he's tuning out the crowd and using a lot of different techniques. He has the duck-under, high crotch, single and fireman's move. I'd like to think he will be one of six or seven wrestlers we can count on in a big way every match."
When asked how he was able to break the habit of playing to the crowd, Lewis said he decided to wrestle and forget what the fans were thinking.
"It wasn't easy but I had to do it," Lewis said.
Although neither Lewis nor Bauerlein used it as an excuse, Lewis was slowed last year by a sore knee that resulted in an operation at the end of the season to repair scar tissue and ligaments.
After two months of rehabilitation, he was back to 100 percent and decided to play football this season as a senior.
But Bauerlein didn't cringe at Lewis' decision to play football.
"I'd rather see kids involved in as many sports as possible rather than sitting around and doing nothing," said Bauerlein.
Lewis is unbeaten in six bouts, including a 152-pound championship in the Meade tournament last weekend. But he will run into some rugged competition this weekend in the McDonogh tourney.
He has helped North Carroll (3-0) gain the No. 3 ranking in the metro area and is looking forward to being part of the Panthers' first state championship after three second-place finishes and being in the top six the past 10 seasons.
The fact that the state association will conduct its first dual-meet championship has Lewis and everybody else around North Carroll excited.
Winning dual meets never has been a problem for Bauerlein's teams. It's the state tournament format, which emphasizes the individual that has prevented the North Carroll coach from grabbing the brass ring in 18 years at the school.
"I think we will win the state dual-meet [1A-2A] championship," said Lewis. "And if we do that, I think we can come right back and win the state tournament also."
Lewis sees defending state 1A-2A tournament champion Northeast and county rival Francis Scott Key as North Carroll's major hurdles to a title.
Just how has North Carroll managed to have such a long run of success?
"Mr. Bauerlein makes us be more conservative than most coaches do and that clears our mind for wrestling," said Lewis.
"We don't wear hats and earrings around before a meet. He makes us dress up and that leads to only the best people at North Carroll going into wrestling."
The 152-pounder plans to parlay his high school success into a collegiate career at Messiah (Pa.) College, where former North Carroll standout Jeremy Myers is wrestling as a freshman.
"I'm looking forward to going to Messiah," said Lewis. "It will be great joining Jeremy up there."