The way Centennial heavyweight Aaron Perkins sees it, wrestlers should get more respect.
Perkins, one of the county's top two heavyweights, is 6-0 with five pins and hasn't gone past the second period in any of his matches.
"Wrestling just doesn't get the respect it deserves. No one realizes the training it takes. The 4-mile runs. The push-ups. The sit-ups. It tests your toughness. To me, it's even more psychological than physical, because there's no one to cover for you, no one else to blame if you lose. You have to take responsibility for your mistakes."
Perkins, a 230-pound All-County football lineman who hopes to play that sport at Holy Cross next year, said he has played soccer, football, basketball and baseball in recreational leagues and that none requires nearly as much intestinal fortitude as wrestling, which he took up as a freshman.
"It's by far the toughest sport I've played. It takes supreme conditioning. But I'm glad I've wrestled, because it is a great confidence-builder, and it helped me with football by building my speed, balance and agility."
He credits former Centennial 189-pounder Joon Kim for much of his improvement. Those two wrestled each other for three years in practice, and Kim was a state champion in 1995.
Perkins has come a long way. He wrestled varsity his freshman year and went 0-22, but improved to 7-12 his sophomore year, before posting an 18-6 mark last season.
"I got thrown to the wolves my freshman year, because we had no one else."
He said he never thought about quitting, though. "When I start something, I want to finish it," he said. "That's my personality."
That kind of perseverance has paid off.
"It's been interesting to see how he's changed," said coach Todd DeCrispino. "He gained confidence toward the end of his sophomore year, and now he's a great leader and team captain. He knows a lot of moves now and is a good wrestler.
"He's aggressive on his feet and adept at take-downs. He fits the mold as a heavyweight with his strength and endurance. And he's very quick. He's muscular. He doesn't look like he's 230 pounds. I've never coached a better heavyweight. He's probably the best that Centennial has ever had. And he's the classic kind of kid you want to coach -- he's a hard-worker, listens and is respectful."
Perkins, a 6-footer, trimmed down from 255 pounds last season to 230 for football and wants to go down to 220.
One of this wrestling season's highlights will be Jan. 7 when he meets Howard's 255-pound Brian Neal. Neal had beaten him five times, including in the county championships last season, until Perkins finally beat him during the off-season.
Perkins wrestled with the Headhunters Club during the spring and early summer and at the Eastern National Tourney at Penn State in July. He beat Neal to earn a spot in that tournament.
"My biggest goal this season is to wrestle him. He's good -- big and strong and quick. It's amazing he's that quick, as big as he is. I like a challenge. You get to be the best by wrestling the best, people who can take you to the third period."
Highlights of Perkins' career include a pin last season that won the decisive match in the dual-meet regionals, earning Centennial a 30-point come-back victory over Kenwood. But the Eagles lost their second match by six points.
In another highlight, Perkins recently pinned his way through the McDonogh Tournament.
During his three-year varsity football career the Eagles never posted a losing season, going 19-11 overall.
When he's not playing sports, Perkins finds time to play alto sax in the school's woodwind ensemble.
Pub Date: 12/22/96