South Carroll's Mike Muller knows about highlights and low-lights. After all, he's been involved in sports, particularly football and wrestling, for most of a dozen years.
If sports teaches one lesson, it is for every winner, there's a loser. For many, the disappointments come quicker than the successes. The good ones learn to handle both equally well.
Last season, the highlight -- and low-light -- for Muller's wrestling season came in a two-week span.
First, he won a county title at 145 pounds, defeating Westminster's Dave Spicer, who was a defending state champion. Two weeks later, expecting to contend for a state title himself, Muller was unceremoniously bounced from the tournament in the first round.
Muller, 5 feet 9, had wrestled most of the season at 145 pounds and Spicer at 140, and, at the time of their match, they had 35 pins among 49 victories. Spicer moved up in weight, though, because he wanted to wrestle Muller, then a junior. Each had won a county title in 1997.
Muller went up 5-0, but Spicer came back to tie at 5-5, then let Muller escape in the third period, because the Westminster star thought that was his best way to win.
At the time, Muller said, "I respected him, but knew if I wrestled hard, I had a chance. I like to get the first points on a good wrestler, because then I think he will respect me, and we'll have a good match.
"We both wanted this one, because in the past Dave had gone where he was needed in the lineup, and we just had not met."
A regional title for Muller followed the next week, and optimism surrounded his hopes in the state tournament.
In a first-round match against Chopticon's Miles Mattingly (23-14), Muller went up 5-0, then was caught and pinned in two minutes 22 seconds.
"Some said they didn't think I was pinned; some said I was," Muller recalled last week. "I didn't think I was, but the referee did, and his opinion was the one that counted."
The loss left him 28-4 for the season, 79-17 for three varsity seasons.
His wrestling career goes back much farther.
"I liked wrestling, but I only weighed 45 pounds, and that was too light," Muller said of his early start. He was 5 years old. "The next year I went up to 55 pounds and was fine."
More recently, he has been working on stamina, which he has improved each season in high school.
"My first two years, I was OK into the second period, but by the third I'd be dragging," he said. "Last year, I started to work harder, and it helped."
He has no trouble maintaining his weight -- he normally goes between 148-154 -- and setting and achieving goals.
"That's my motivation, he said. "Regardless of how good you are, people will expect you to be better. That makes me more determined."
Said South Carroll coach Pete Olson: "He can deliver. He's basically a very good natural athlete who has great balance, speed and power -- stuff you can't coach. When it's game time, he's all focused."
He's that way not only in wrestling, but in the other sports he has played at South Carroll, football and baseball. A three-year varsity football player, he was basically a defensive back, although he convinced coach Gene Brown to use him as a running back halfway through his junior season.
The result was nearly 600 rushing yards and five touchdowns. As a senior, he saw enough time on offense to gain some 400 yards and score four touchdowns. His work on defense earned him All-County recognition his junior and senior years.
It makes no difference what the sport, Muller has the same philosophy: "My biggest thing is my intensity. I hate losing."
With that in mind he has lived with a newspaper headline since last March 7 that got his attention, one that proclaimed, "South Carroll's Muller flattened in first round."
Now, that's motivation.
Pub Date: 12/06/98