When Westminster won its third straight county wrestling championship in February, five of the eight champions between 112-152 pounds were Owls. Three are now seniors and team leaders.
Together, Kyle Burger, John Muse, and Chris Reiter have five county titles, two regional titles, and three state placings.
Burger, with the least experience, has the largest haul -- county and regional titles at 125 pounds and 130 pounds, plus a sixth and a fourth in the state meet.
Reiter and Muse began wrestling when they were 5, but Burger did not get interested until wrestling in a middle-school gym class.
"Now I wish I had started when I was younger," Burger said. "I would have had the moves down and come into high school stronger and more experienced."
As it was, he wrestled in the Junior League program as an eighth-grader, taking sixth in Maryland in his weight class. He finished second the following year, then was a big surprise as a sophomore on Westminster's varsity.
Despite wrestling up a weight class to get into the starting lineup and having to deal with a broken toe late in the season, he was a strong tournament performer and finished 27-9.
"It just seemed to come naturally to me. I muscled my way through at first, but when I got on the [high school] team, I had to learn as I went along."
Reiter, another in his third varsity campaign, has county titles at 103 and 112, a regional fourth and a second, and two losses at the state level.
Muse was a Junior League wrestler for eight years, then lost two seasons with a bad back before reaching the varsity last winter. He followed his county championship with a regional third and a fourth at the state meet.
This season, the three have a more demanding attitude. Collectively, they say, "We need pins."
The Owls are a much younger and less-experienced group than they were in winning the last two county team championships, and the three find themselves the ones being looked up to, rather than doing the looking.
"We know how they look up to us," Muse said. "It makes me want to get in shape more, and I have to go twice as hard to set an example.
Last season, Muse worked with senior Dave Spicer, a former state champion.
"I tried to work as hard as Dave, but it would have been impossible to work harder," Muse said. Burger and Reiter often are practice partners, and they do things to make each other work harder.
For matches, Muse makes a plan ahead of time, thinking about what he will do.
"Last year, it was strength, with basically one move," he said. "This season, I'm developing more."
Burger sees himself as being more of a technique wrestler.
"I usually have two or three favorite moves. I rely on conditioning, take it into third period, then go for the pin," he said.
It's different for Reiter, who, at 5-foot-9, is the tallest of the trio, as well as the lightest.
"I can't use power, so I go for leverage," he said.
At Franklin last Tuesday, Burger pinned Paul Chiusano of Gaithersburg 27 seconds into the third period and earned three of his points in the third period of a 5-0 win over Franklin's Ryan Ridgely.
In that action, Reiter and Muse each won once by forfeit and once by pin (54 seconds and 29 seconds, respectively).
Westminster had opened its season last weekend, placing fourth in the always-tough Annapolis tournament. Burger won a championship, Muse got a second and Reiter a fourth.
"I was second last year to the same guy [Calvert Hall senior Tony Russo] that beat John this time. I wanted to come out strong, because that sets the pace for my season," said Burger, 7-0 so far.
That tournament, to say nothing of the report cards which came out last week, got the attention of some of their younger teammates.
"The tournament was a rude awakening for some of them, because some of the best teams were there," Muse said.
One of the ways the three provide leadership is through their work in the classroom, where all are honor-roll students.
"We just got our report cards, and some of the new ones are finding out just how hard classes are, let alone the wrestling," Burger said.
Showing they work as hard in their wrestling as they do in their studies, Muse declared, "We never stop working. Nobody pushes harder than the coach, and that's why we've been one of the best."
Coach Henry Mohlhenrich does push and has watched the progress of these seniors.
"Their leadership comes from having worked hard the last two-three years. They work well together, too," he said.
Pub Date: 12/13/98