A few years back, no one could have imagined Northeast seniors Tom Cain and James Taylor being the county's top one-two punch at the heavier weights.
When Cain reached the varsity during his sophomore year, he was a slender 152-pounder.
Taylor wasn't even at Northeast then; instead, he was wrestling at Glen Burnie. He transferred to Northeast for his junior year.
But here they are, Cain a sturdy 189-pounder and Taylor the Eagles' anchor at heavyweight.
Their breakthrough junior seasons last winter were nearly NTC identical. Both won county championships, placed second in the region and fourth at states. Both earned first-team All-County honors.
"I think both can become state champions," said Northeast coach Al Kohlhafer. "They are starting to get the tools, size-wise and with technique. They can go as far as they want to go. It depends on them."
One thing's for certain, the two get a serious test every day in the practice room, where they go against each other.
"Tom's real tough," said Taylor. "He helps me out a lot and is a big reason why I've done so well."
From Cain's standpoint, facing Taylor with his added weight makes the 189-pounders he wrestles in matches feel that much lighter.
The Eagles were 11-3 last season and have a good nucleus returning to support their two big stars, with senior Bob Couch another standout at 125.
"I know the team counts on them both. The feeling is, with these two at the end of the lineup, they're going to come through. It's a big pick-me-up for the entire team," said Kohlhafer.
Said Cain: "If it's still close, Taylor and I are confident we can put the match away."
Ask either Cain or Taylor what he enjoys most about the sport, and he will say it's the one-on-one confrontation.
A small heavyweight, Taylor relies on his strength and quickness to win. Getting the most out of time spent in the practice room is another factor.
"Wrestling a match can be a long six minutes. You have to practice tough, work hard," he said. "I try to stay away from the bigger heavyweights, rely on my quickness. The smaller guys like me are a lot harder to wrestle. I have to beat them with ability and experience."
Taylor goes into every match with butterflies in his stomach. Cain prepares listening to the theme music of the Sylvester Stallone movie "Rocky."
"You learn a little more every year, and you just have to go at it," said Cain. "I try to control my opponent, stay a step ahead, and dictate the match.
Anne Arundel County wrestling is dotted by brother combinations and fathers coaching sons this season.
In Annapolis, the Hemminger twins -- Andrew and Dan -- will close out fine careers.
Meade also has senior twins, Chris and Mark Whipple.
Chesapeake junior Jeff Eveleth won a region championship at 103 pounds last season. He'll jump to 112 this winter, with younger brother Matt, a freshman, taking over the 103-pound slot.
Actually, Chesapeake has three Eveleths, counting older brother Brian, a 1991 graduate, who is assisting coach Tom Slichter.
Helping solidify Northeast's lineup are the Serio brothers -- senior Dominic and sophomore Gino.
Annapolis Area Christian coach Dick Bitzer gets the chance to coach his son Alex, a sophomore. And Chesapeake's Slichter also has a son on his team, Mike.
Pub Date: 12/06/98