My lesson - There's no sure thing

March 11, 2004|by ANDY MASON

I did something Saturday that I had never done before in my years as a sports journalist.

I wrote the lead to a story before the story was ready to be told.

In an effort to save time at the Maryland State Wrestling Tournament at University of Maryland's Cole Field House, I hopped on my laptop computer and began banging out sentences about how Frederick sophomore Mark Tsikerdanos capped another perfect season with another state gold.

I did that about three hours before the championship bouts began, and I was proud of myself for getting such a head start on what was sure to be a hectic and fast-paced night.

The only thing I would then have to do was go back and plug in the score of Tsikerdanos' match against McDonough's Matt Myers in the Class 4A-3A 125-pound final, describe a little of the action and add a few quotes.


It seemed foolproof, even an easier layup I thought than the No. 1 and undefeated Stanford men's basketball team had against unranked Washington that day. Tsikerdanos, the top-ranked 125-pounder in the state, had never lost a prep match.

But I lost my lead and learned my lesson.

Myers topped Tsikerdanos 3-1 in the upset of the night, ending the Cadet's unbeaten streak at 59 straight matches. And, coincidentally enough, Washington stunned Stanford 75-62 to stop the Cardinal's perfect run at 26 straight games.

My lesson learned: Don't get ahead of yourself because nothing ever can be taken for granted. Save the "sure bets" for the office pools.

Of course, I now think Stanford will be a stronger bet for my NCAA bracket and that Tsikerdanos even will be a better wrestler with his silver.

The difference between winning and losing often is slim. That margin can be easier to appreciate, understand and manipulate when you've experienced both sides of it.

True hunger for something comes from being deprived of it. And when you're starving, you don't hesitate trying to steal from those with full bellies because the stakes are high.

Washington (17-10, 12-6), which began the season 0-5 in Pac-10 play, sent a message to the tourney selection committee with its victory over Stanford, which still should receive a top regional seeding.

Myers, who lost twice during the season, had nothing else to lose and the world to gain against the heavily favored Tsikerdanos, who had a lot more to lose than he had to gain.

Tsikerdanos winning wasn't going to add anything to my lead. Him losing gave me a new start from a fresh perspective.

Andy Mason is assistant sports editor of The Morning Herald. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2334, or by e-mail at

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