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Tsikerdanos - Easier to spell than wrestle

December 04, 2003|by ANDY MASON

Of the hundreds of high school wrestling bouts I saw last winter, none was more thrilling than the Class 4A-3A 103-pound final at the Maryland state championships at McDaniel College.

Frederick's Mark Tsikerdanos came back from a 3-0 deficit late in the second period to defeat Dulaney's James Knox 5-3 in overtime for the state title and a perfect season at 25-0.

It would have been a storybook ending for any high school athlete's career. For Tsikerdanos, however, it was just the opening chapter. He was only a freshman last season.

Talking to him about the match afterwards that day, he made it seem like it was just another step on the ladder - one that, whether he realizes it or not, could reach the ranks of the state's all-time greats.

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"I'm sure he thinks about being undefeated for his high school career. He definitely has that potential," Frederick coach Andre Jackson said. "He doesn't rest on his laurels. He's always working to get better.

"He had a great season last year, but that was last year. He has to establish himself all over again."

Tsikerdanos' sophomore campaign begins this weekend at Oakland Mills' Scorpion Duals.

His opponents can certainly count on him to bring his trademark speed, which he used to record 17 pins and five tech falls last season. But the Cadet might have a surprise for them.

He'll be packing more power with his punch.

Tsikerdanos, who lifted weights daily all summer and fall, is bigger, stronger and will wrestle two classes heavier at 119, where he's listed No. 1 in the Maryland State Wrestling Association's preseason rankings.

"I hit a growth spurt at the very end of last season," said Tsikerdanos, who, at 5-foot-7, is two inches taller than last season. "I'm a lot stronger than I ever was, and I'm still just as fast."

But he knows 119 is a different ball game than 103.

"It's a different style of wrestling - more strength," he said. "A lot of older kids are going to be staying at that same weight from last year."

He should be more than ready for them.

Tsikerdanos, who won three junior-league state titles and an AAU grand-national crown before ever wrestling a high school match, made the most of this past off-season. Competing at 125, he won all six of the open tournaments he wrestled in Pennsylvania - a state renowned for its top-shelf matmen.

"His maturity is beyond a sophomore in high school," Jackson said. "He's done a ton of wrestling outside the box, so to speak. He's left his comfort zone to find better competition."

While being an undefeated, defending state champ carries its own pressures, they might not be as great as the expectations Tsikerdanos places on himself.

"He's very, very competitive. He does not want to lose," Jackson said. "If he doesn't pin or tech fall his opponent, he feels he didn't wrestle his best. That's just part of who he is."

The state final was the only match Tsikerdanos ever trailed in last season, and one of only three that went the distance.

You can be sure nearly every wrestler he faces this season will be out to prove something against him.

"It just motivates me when people are coming after me," Tsikerdanos said.

Thankfully, I'm only after a quote or two when I approach him.




Andy Mason is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. His column appears every other Thursday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2334, or by e-mail at andrewm@herald-mail.com

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