If there were any doubts as to how dominant Century 125-pound senior Alex Grassi can be on the wrestling mat, they were blown away last weekend at Cumberland in the Fort Hill Super Duals.
Although Grassi was battling the lingering effects of strep throat, he won all nine of his matches and was selected the Most Outstanding Wrestler of the meet for a third straight year. In three trips to the Western Maryland city, Grassi has gone 23-0 in an event that features eight or nine teams.
"Alex is an exceptional young man," Century coach Steven Speck said. "In my 10 years of having worked as a teacher and six years as a coach, I can honestly say that to encounter an individual like Alex is rare, to say the least. He is an unbridled leader. He's a fantastic motivator. Despite his vast abilities, his gifts and talents, he is arguably the most humble athlete I have in that room."
Grassi got hooked on the sport at a young age.
"When I was 7, me and my younger brother used to fight all the time at home," Grassi said. "A wrestling coach told me that wrestling is just fighting with rules. That's what got me going."
Grassi has amassed a 26-1 record this season, losing only to McDonogh's Josh Fitch. He is 121-15 in his four-year career and has twice been in the running for the Class 2A-1A state championship in the 119-pound category.
As a sophomore, Grassi finished second at states, with a 9-3 loss to Northern-Garrett's Casey Camp. Grassi called that state runner-up performance at Cole Field House in College Park the most gratifying moment in his high school career.
"Just stepping out on that mat in front of all those people at Cole was something else," Grassi said. "I had an idea what I wanted to do against him because I had wrestled him in the regionals. But he had a little more experience. Also, we were the only match going on at that time in that big place."
One of the highlights of that second-place state finish was a victory over Rising Sun's previously unbeaten Matt Jackson in the quarterfinals.
As a junior, the Century standout had to settle for a final four showing in the state field, leaving Grassi all the more eager to finally capture that elusive state title this season.
"I do think this is my year to win at states," Grassi said. "It's my senior year, and I have to do it now. It's my last year to strive for that goal at the high school level."
Grassi believes he has good reason for his optimism this season. "I can definitely tell you I'm in better shape than I was," he said. "Coach Speck pushes me to what I need to get done, physically wise. He realizes that I'm more of a strength wrestler and pushes me towards that aspect."
Grassi leads by example and has made a positive impression on his teammates.
"I definitely look up to him as a person and a wrestler," Century's 119-pound junior Ben Moore said. "He takes his sport very seriously. You can definitely see he has a passion for it."
Moore said that Grassi took him "under his wing and has been a big help to me throughout my career."
While Grassi continues to pile up victories on the mat, he is also excelling in the classroom. He has a 4.5 grade point average on a scale on which a 4.0 is considered perfect - he gains the extra points by taking advanced courses - and has been accepted at three of the five colleges he has applied to.
Penn State, Rutgers and McDaniel have approved his applications while he is awaiting word from his top two choices of Maryland and Virginia Tech.
"I'm putting my academics first and planning on majoring in engineering," said Grassi, who isn't certain whether he will attempt to attend college on a wrestling or academic scholarship.