Nine months ago, Western Tech's Tejon Anthony became the first wrestler at the school to win the Baltimore County, Class 2A-1A North regional and state wrestling titles.
Now the junior, who won the state championship at 120 pounds after beating a three-time state champion in the semifinal, 5-4, before rolling to a 7-0 victory in the final, is seeking a second state crown as he moves up two weight classes to 132 pounds this season.
Western Tech coach Jay Solera said Anthony is a leader "by example," that his calm persona translates well to the wrestling mat and that his self confidence is key to all he has accomplished.
"He never goes on the wrestling mat believing he is going to do anything but win," Solera said. "The idea of defeat never crosses his mind. He is a rare find."
That confidence has translated to Anthony's teammates, who, Solera said, now realize a state championship can be built at the school.
"They all believe the sky is the limit," Solera said.
The 5-foot-6 Anthony carries a 3.28 grade-point average and is working toward a future in computer networking or programming.
What do you get out of wrestling?
You don't see too many famous wrestlers. You don't get in it for that. Wrestling is pretty demanding, and it takes a lot out of you physically. You've got to really want it, and I like it. It gives you discipline and toughness. And it teaches you how to persevere through obstacles. I like that. And it also brings you friends and a brotherhood.
How did you discover the sport?
I started wrestling in sixth grade because my recreation league football coach,
Do you still play football?
Yes, I'm a running back and a safety. We had a decent season. We went 7-3 [in the fall]. I like football because there is a lot of contact; it's competitive and fast-paced. I like wrestling because it's more individualized, and I like the hand-to-hand contact with one person on the mat. It's a physical sport and you can't run away from your opponent. There's never really a dull moment in a wrestling match. I think the two sports go together well because of the footwork and the conditioning.
Do you have an edge when you're on the mat?
I would like to think I'm one of the fastest and strongest in my weight class.
As a sophomore last season, what did it take to win the state championship?
A lot of kids don't ever get to states. My first year in high school, I didn't have high expectations, but I thought I would be in a few matches. I was really good in ninth grade and I took third at states in junior league. And from there I worked hard and it shows. I came back from two points down in that state semifinal match. My opponent got a two-point lead in the first 30 seconds, but then I got a reversal and got him on his back for a total of five points. It means so much to me that I won and it means a lot to the school. I was the first to win counties and states and the first to win all three here.
Has winning the state title made a noticeable difference for you?
None. I still continue to work hard every day. I don't treat myself like a state champion, and I haven't had anyone change their opinion about me because I'm a state champion.
What are your expectations and goals for this season?
I want to dominate my weight class better, and I'd like to repeat — I have nowhere else to go. The class will be stronger, maybe faster and more experienced, and the kids will be a mixture of familiar opponents and unfamiliar ones. I'm always excited to wrestle new kids, who give you new challenges, and kids from the past, in matches where you can see how you've progressed and how they have.
How do you think your team will do this season?
Payton Beachum (senior at 220 pounds) and Tony Simuel (senior at 145 pounds) were both at states last year, and we push each other all the time in practice. Practices get rough sometimes. We only lost one wrestler from last year's team, and I think we're going to be good.
If you could do anything, what would it be?
I'd probably go skydiving. Why not? It looks like fun.
What's the most important thing you learned from Walter Johnson, your rec league coach, and from Jay Solera here at Western Tech?
From Coach Johnson, I learned sports are extracurricular and a privilege, that school is what should matter most and academics are the most important thing. From Coach Solera, I've learned to be a hard worker, to never take days off, and to never slack off because if you do, you're only cheating yourself. He's taught me to do all the ordinary things extraordinarily well.