The Palumbo family has half a basement room dedicated to wrestling, mat included.
Converting the space became necessary when none of the older three Palumbo brothers could pass another in the hallway without a wrestling move being applied.
A mat downstairs would translate into harmony upstairs, right?
"The living room still wins," said Jake Palumbo, a senior at Annapolis Area Christian. "It takes time to roll out the mat. It's so much easier to just move the table away in the living room."
Coach Dick Bitzer has unnoficially named the Palumbos the first family of the Annapolis Area Christian wrestling program, and it's easy to see why.
Oldest brother Josh, a 1996 grad studying forestry at Virginia Tech, set the family standard with school marks in career wins (87-23) and pins (58).
Next came Jake, who was 45-27 before a series of concussions curtailed his career. He remains the Eagles' captain this season, leading the team through warm-ups, taking the coin toss before each match, and providing Bitzer with an extra set of eyes in the practice room.
And now, most eyes are set on Luke, a sophomore who is 9-0 with seven pins and ranked second in the state in the 103-pound weight class. He is considered to have a chance of becoming the first private-schools state champion in the decade Annapolis Christian has had wrestling.
"What's interesting is watching all three of them get into their stances. They all look alike," said Bitzer. "They're all good athletes to start with -- very quick, fast learners, and great competitors."
"Luke's the one who benefited by having two older brothers around. When he walked into the practice room the first time, he was head and shoulders above the rest, better than anyone who has come through."
As a 95-pound freshman last winter, Luke won 33 of 45 bouts and took third at states. With some growth and after wrestling freestyle over the summer, he's up to 103 pounds and wrestling at a higher level this season. His improved skills showed immediately in wins at the recent Catholic and Meade Tournaments.
"Luke's definitely a better wrestler," Jake concedes. "But I still beat him, because I'm heavier and he's still my little brother. He has a natural way of picking things up. He just absorbs things. He can learn a new move and apply it the very next match."
The Palumbo parents -- Joe and Pam -- support not only their sons but the school's full program. They don't miss a match, help raise money through concessions, and Pam Palumbo often makes pasta for the entire team before a match.
"They're at all our matches, taping them, yelling -- the whole 9 yards. It makes you want to work that much harder," said Luke.
Said Joe: "It's always good to see your kids succeed. The one thing we've always tried to instill in them is how they handle things. Win or lose, they're always gentlemen on the mat after each match."
The reason all this wrestling fun got started in the Palumbo household is Jola, the oldest of three daughters in the family. She kept the stat book for a season after she began dating a wrestler, Chris Barber, now her husband.
"Jola was friends with some wrestlers, and it was a case of little brother [Josh] jumping in to get involved," said Joe. "Josh was planning on playing basketball, but they said, 'No, you're not.' After he told them he never wrestled before, they said, 'We'll teach you.'"
Luke likely won't be the last Palumbo to take the mat for the Eagles. Another Palumbo son is on the way.
Adam, 9 and already a wrestling veteran, gets the benefit of three older brothers.
Pub Date: 12/11/98