Get a grip; don't let go

The Baltimore Sun

Most 16-year-olds have a problem with long-term focus. Their minds skip from the next music download to where their friends are going to be Saturday night.

But Archbishop Curley wrestler Brett Przywara has a clear vision of what he wants and what it will take to get there.

Przywara won the state private schools wrestling title in the 103-pound weight class last winter as a freshman and immediately stepped into the spotlight.

"His goal is to win four straight titles," Curley coach Gregg Kessler said of Przywara, who plans to move up to 119 this season. "The pressure is already on him. And he wants to do it again. That's how it is. Once you win it as a freshman, you want to do it again."

Does he have what it takes to win three more state titles? Is Przywara that special wrestler who comes along, perhaps, once in a coach's career?

Those are the questions facing Przywara and every other wrestler who sets out to do what less than a handful have done: win four state wrestling titles.

If Przywara doesn't become the area's next four-time state champ, it won't be from a lack of dedication.

"I get up in the morning, and me and my dad go to the basement and lift weights," said Przywara, 16. "I bench-press 185 pounds. I go to practice. I put in five to six hours a day on wrestling and another three on schoolwork.

"I know I'm going to have to put out a lot more work, spend more time, stay focused and give it my best. And I know I have to really want it."

Last season, the local high school wrestling community was excited by the workmanlike performances of Hereford's Josh Asper and McDonogh's Josh Fitch, who each accomplished the rare feat.

Asper joined Kessler's brother Steve, who wrestled at Owings Mills in 1997, and Aberdeen's Matt Slutzky in 1992 as the only three wrestlers to win four public school state titles.

Fitch completed an equally amazing run at McDonogh, winning four Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association and private schools state championships.

"It takes absolute dedication, and really, the mind-set of believing in one's self unconditionally," said Hereford coach Ron Causey, who watched Asper train throughout his high school career. "My Josh, and I'm sure Josh Fitch, too, because I know him, worked harder than anyone else. Just one example: Josh [Asper] went out for a five-mile run and noticed a sign that said 'Pennsylvania three miles,' and thought it would be fun to run to Pennsylvania, so he extended his run six miles to do it.

"Absolute dedication means, 'I'm going to be so dedicated to the sport and set my sights as high as they can be, and I'm going to work myself to death to reach my goals.' No one I've ever witnessed worked harder than Josh Asper."

Mount St. Joseph coach Kirk Salvo echoed Causey but added that working harder than everyone else is difficult to measure.

"You have to work harder than anyone else, that's what you have to do," he said. "But no one knows what that is. Is someone out there working harder than you? Is there someone out here this season that can accomplish what the two Joshes did? It's a difficult question.

"For a person to do it, you've got to be willing to run at 6:30 a.m., go to an afternoon practice, be disciplined enough to manage your weight. Live healthy. Have positive mental thoughts. It's not just an athlete's ability; it's preparedness and performance. You can read about how lazy American youth are, but you won't find the lazy ones in this sport."

Curtis Holmes, a McDonogh senior who wrestles at 145 pounds and is a three-time MIAA champion and two-time private schools state winner, is shooting for his fourth MIAA title this season.

"Josh Fitch was my teammate," Holmes said. "I saw his work ethic and how much work it is. You really have to be dedicated. But it is a definite goal for me, four-time MIAA and three-time state champ. You have to put in more than one practice a day. You have to eat right. You have to know your opponents. You see them wrestle and feel them out early in your match.

"It's not like football. I don't watch film of other wrestlers. I only watch film of myself to get better."

While Przywara contemplates state title No. 2, there already is a buzz about Centennial 103-pound freshman Nathan Kraisser and whether he will end up being a four-time state champ.

There is no margin for error for either of them.

"It takes a lot of mental toughness," said McDonogh coach Pete Welch, who watched over Fitch's development. "You have to have a kid that can do it on competition days. That's mental toughness. Some get it naturally. Some work hard to get it."

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