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Mance makes moves to improve


There's a difference in the Darrel Mance who last year became Woodlawn's first state champ, and the one who will take the mat in Tuesday's tri-match at Catonsville with No. 10 Owings Mills.

Mance, a 6-foot-2, 230-pound heavyweight, has added 10 pounds. His powerful arms bench-press 300 pounds -- 20 more than last year.

And he's more experienced after a summer with the Northwest Wrestling Club, winning state and AAU freestyle titles -- the latter Hershey, Pa. -- under coaches Kenny Taylor and Cornell Bass.

He's still the atypical heavyweight, training to go the distance, using the thrust of a forearm to halt an offensive charge, or simply step aside with cat-like quickness. Mance also has the savvy to turn a bout into a take-down clinic.

Opponents will find the new Mance is more aggressive than the one who last year was a county runner-up and a regional champ. He posted a 33-3 record, but had just 13 pins.

"He's not playing that role this year," said coach Scott Jeffries, who last year assisted Bill Webb and was junior-varsity head coach.

"Darrel's definitely more aggressive, taking the initiative instead of waiting for the shot, then attacking," said Jeffries. "His technique is real good, but he's not just countering."

Mance's graceful style of last season made his bouts look easy. He breezed past last year's four 3A-4A state tournament opponents, for example, out-pointing them by a combined 26-6.

Ranked No. 2 by the Maryland State Wrestling Association, this year's Mance looks to mix it up more.

"Last year, I was satisfied just taking a guy down and letting him up. This year, I look for more pins, I'm more at home down on the mats. I'm no longer only comfortable on my feet," said Mance, who was 12-8 as a sophomore.

"It's no secret that I'm going for single-legs sometimes, but I'm willing to eat a cross-face to get it. It's on the other guy to try to stop me."

Not that Mance (6-0) goes in with reckless abandon.

"I find myself looking for the pin more, but I have no problem with not being able to pin someone," said Mance. "I just see a lot more in a match. I'm just by picking up little things, here and there that make me a little better."

Mance displayed his skills last weekend, using a 50-second pin, a 6-2 decision and a 13-5 major decision of Loch Raven's sixth-ranked R. J. Meyer to win the title in the Pikesville tournament.

Meyer (6-3, 250) was coming off a semifinal, 2-0 upset of Overlea's No. 5 Mike Knoedler, but Mance frustrated him.

"I was upset that everything I tried wouldn't work. He was real fast and knew a counter to every move," said Meyer, a senior who hasn't been pinned since his freshman season. "It made me improve. Now I'm just working extra hard every day."

As a linebacker on Woodlawn's 8-2 football team, Mance -- listed by Blue Chip Magazine among the nation's top prospects with a 4.5-second 40-yard -- -- earned notice from Indiana, Wisconsin, Louisville, North Carolina State, Ohio and West Virginia universities. For wrestling, he's getting looks from Pennsylvania, North Carolina-Greensboro, Idaho and Virginia Tech.

In addition to practice, Mance works out on his own, running three to four miles every morning before school, five days a week. He admits, however, needing Woodlawn graduate Antoine Glasgow to "slap me on the head" every so often.

"I don't want him to get satisfied and come to practice lackadaisical," said Jeffries. "I want him to wrestle like the state champ every day."

Last year's only losses were two decisions to Pikesville's 275-pound county champ Wayde Ezell, who was third in the 1A-2A states, and another to eventual 1A-2A state champ Andy Stroud of Rockville.

"Ezell outweighed Darrel by about 50 pounds, but Darrel needed just a little more drive," said Jeffries.

"After he won the states, and over the course of the spring, he's realized his potential. He's becoming more focused."

Ezell has graduated, but Mance could get the challenges he seeks in January's Overlea tournament, where he should meet Knoedler. Both Knoedler and Meyer will be at the county meet.

But a rematch with Stroud won't happen unless each repeats as state champ. Then, they could meet in the senior All-Star Classic in late March.

"Darrel wants Stroud real bad," said Jeffries.

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