Atholton sophomore Ricky Trott had a tough initiation into the world of high school wrestling. He lost eight of his first nine matches as a freshman.
"I was thinking about quitting," he said. "I was getting pinned all the time in the first period."
But perseverance paid off.
Although he didn't place, he thought that things began turning around during a tournament at South River High School last season. After that, he posted a 3-4 league record and went on to finish 10-15 overall, including a fourth place at the county tournament.
He was winning 13-4 in the third period of his first regional match and seemed a sure bet to make states.
"But he relaxed and got pinned," Atholton coach Ron McMillan said. "He learned a lesson from it."
Now Trott is 21-4 and riding high heading into the county tournament next weekend. The 160-pounder has 14 pins.
"All four of his losses were to quality kids and two of them were ranked," McMillan said. "For a sophomore, he's way ahead of the game. He's one of the top two kids I've ever coached. The other was Andy Brown [Wilde Lake]."
One of Trott's losses this season was an 8-6 overtime decision to Hammond's Chris Williams, who is 19-2 and ranked sixth in the state.
"No one expected me to be able to wrestle with him," Trott said. "That was my biggest match this season. Williams is quick."
Williams had moved up from 152 to 160 to wrestle Trott and trailed him at one point.
His other losses were to wrestlers from South Carroll, La Plata and Thomas Stone. He was leading the South Carroll wrestler in the third period but got pinned. He lost once but beat the Thomas Stone wrestler in a rematch. He said he was outwrestled by his La Plata foe.
Trott relies on his aggressiveness a lot, although he is technically sound enough at all facets of the sport.
"I'm riding well right now and am probably best on my feet or on top," he said.
His second-toughest county match was against Centennial's Anthony DiPietro. It ended in a 14-7 victory for Trott, but it was 9-5 after two periods.
"He was a lot tougher than I expected," Trott said.
Trott, who lives in Highland, did not begin wrestling until the eighth grade for former Atholton varsity coach Earl Lauer in a Western Howard County program.
"He's one of the fastest learners I've ever had," McMillan said. "He refuses to lose, has no fear of failure and is a gifted athlete. He's a complete package with cat-like balance, above-average strength and an understanding of where his body is at all times during matches. And he always keeps his head. He even comes over and tries to calm me down sometimes."
McMillan thinks that Trott is peaking at the right time.
"He's creating and not waiting now," McMillan said. "Williams is the only one to take him down during January. If Ricky doesn't go to states this year, I'll be shocked."
Trott's goals this season were to win 25 matches and a county title.
"They didn't seem realistic, but now I have a shot," he said. "Last year, I never thought I'd be able to do this well."
He expected Atholton to do better as a team than its 4-7 record, but not having wrestlers at 189 and heavyweight has hindered Atholton in dual meets.
Wrestling isn't the only sport in which he excels. Trott's top sport is football. As a freshman on the junior varsity, he rushed for 800 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Last fall for the varsity, he rushed for 246 yards on 47 carries for a 5.2 average. And he gained 258 yards returning 14 kickoffs for an 18.4 average.
He also made 21 solo tackles and had two interceptions as a linebacker.
"Football is still my favorite, but I like wrestling a lot now," Trott said.