COLLEGE PARK -- The mission began with an unlikely state title in his freshman year. Four years later, Hereford senior Josh Asper is in distinguished company.
After methodically defeating Thomas Stone's Justin Bowersox, 5-1, in yesterday's Class 4A-3A 171-pound state final at Maryland's Cole Field House - a match that typified his workmanlike approach - Asper routinely took off his headgear, then the green ankle band he was wearing before shaking hands with his opponent as the crowd applauded .
As the referee raised Asper's hand in victory, signaling his fourth state title, Asper raised his other hand, too, and finally smiled. Soon afterward, he was showing rare emotion, in a bearhug with his coach, Ron Causey.
Asper, who will wrestle at Maryland next year, joined 1992 Aberdeen graduate Matt Slutzky and 1997 Owings Mills graduate Steve Kessler as the only four-time public school state champions.
"The best feeling about it was watching all the fans stand up and cheer me on as I won it. I had this adrenaline run and it felt great," said Asper, who finished the season with a 37-0 record.
"I tell our other guys that wrestling is the toughest sport you can do mentally and physically. And I tell some of the guys that if everything you get comes easy, then it wouldn't feel good when you're done. The best things in life come when you work really hard - that's when it feels really great."
While defending state champ Old Mill and North Carroll couldn't catch La Plata for the team championship, metro-area wrestlers turned in a number of quality performances. La Plata, from Charles County, won its second state tournament title with 107 points. Old Mill was the highest area finisher, taking third with 66 points.
Annapolis senior Bubby Graham (36-0) dominated the 160-pound class, pinning three of his four opponents and winning his semifinal match, 15-0. He pinned North Harford's Tom Stewart in the final to become a three-time state champion.
Northeast senior Maurice Fleming completed a three-week stretch of domination by winning the 140-pound class with a 21-6 technical fall over Northern's Jeff Williams to capture a second straight title. Woodlawn 125-pound junior Deonte Carter, who won a state title in Nebraska last year, found no match in Maryland; his 8-5 decision over Arundel's Joe Kidwell completed a 34-0 season.
For Graham and Fleming, it was an impressive way to conclude high school careers.
"I was definitely pleased with the way I finished this tournament.. ... I knew there was going to be some tough competition, but this feels great," Graham said.
Said Fleming, who finished 38-1: "Definitely my mind-set the past three weeks was to go out and dominate, and there's really no way to describe it. It feels good. Going out on top is big. You don't want to win a state championship [as a junior] and then fall off in your senior year. I wanted to finish out on top in my high school career, and the second time was a lot harder when everyone is gunning for you."
Bel Air 152-pound senior Matt Cross (40-2) and Atholton 103-pound sophomore Kevin Beck (39-1) also won state firstname.lastname@example.org
Four area wrestlers finished undefeated seasons with state championships.
Wt. Wrestler School W-L 125 Deonte Carter Woodlawn 34-0 160 Bubby Graham-x Annapolis 36-0 171 Josh Asper-y Hereford 37-0
103 Avi Friedman Owings Mills 37-0
x-three-time state champion y-four-time state champion