Joe Hall, Bishop McNamara's standout heavyweight wrestler and football player, says he is "a tough guy on the mat and on the field," but in the classrooms and halls at the Forestville school "he's just an average kind of guy."
However, his athletic accomplishments are far from average. Hall, from Fort Washington, is one of only a few area athletes who have been named All-Met in two different sports.
College recruiters were keenly interested in him for both football and wrestling. Offered football scholarships at dozens of Division I schools, he narrowed the list to five before choosing Virginia over Duke, Virginia Tech, Boston College and Mississippi.
Hall's wrestling and football have complemented each other throughout high school, aiding his maturation into a full-fledged star. Encouraged by his freshman football coach to wrestle in order to stay in condition and to improve his quickness, Hall made the varsity wrestling team his freshman year. The experiment has been a continuing success.
"Wrestling has made Joe a better football player," said Frank Neitzey, head football coach at McNamara. "His upper-body strength and great sense of balance gained in wrestling make him a natural for the offensive line. He's coming into the college game at a perfect time. Five years ago, offensive linemen couldn't use their hands. Now, with the new rules, pass blocking is almost like a wrestling match."
At 6 feet 2 1/2 and 240 pounds, Hall has the weight to hold his own at the line of scrimmage, and according to Neitzey, "He has the balance to handle taller opponents."
His quickness is also exceptional for a big man. According to Brian Nogay, acting head wrestling coach at McNamara, "Some of the things he does, you'd imagine even much lighter men to have trouble with."
Because of college recruiting trips, Hall missed several matches this season. He admits his visits have taken their toll. "I've got to get in better shape," he said. But he's confident he can repeat last year's successes, which included winning the heavyweight title at the National Prep Wrestling Tournament.
"Winning the Nationals was a really big thing for me," said Hall, who last year avenged an early-season exhibition loss to Woodberry Forrest's Billy Wynn in the tournament championship.
"That guy should never have beaten me in the first place, but he did, and it pushed me into getting into good shape," said Hall. "I pinned him in the first period of last year's finals match. It made my whole season, maybe my whole career. Now everything is downhill."
Hall may appear a little blase about this year's competition, but he has some new goals. Coach John Jenkins, who wrestles with Hall in practice, has demanded the heavyweight pin every opponent in the first period this season.
So far, Hall has responded to the challenge winning the Metro Conference tournament and 21 matches, all with first period pins. He pinned Phil Bryant of DeMatha at 1:32 of the first period in the finals of the recent St. Albans Invitational.
Also, there's a matter of wrestling pride to attend to. "I'd like to wrestle Karl Edwards of Aberdeen because he's ranked ahead of me in the state . I went undefeated last year and was ranked No. 1 in the state. Then, all of a sudden, they popped him up first."
Besides being competitive, Hall exudes confidence in his abilities. "I could see a lot of people saying Joe is cocky, but it's just confidence," Nogay said. "He's handled success better than anyone would. Besides, he's still just a kid."
This season, Hall finds himself in an unsolicited leadership role with the wrestling team. "I didn't really want to be a team captain," Hall said. "I'm the kind of guy who likes to fool around in practice. Now I have to be serious just to get the others to try to be serious. But with so many young kids on the team, I almost had to do it."
Nogay agreed. "There is a lot of pressure on him to win," he said. "He didn't want the extra pressure of leading the team, but he never fails to respond when we count on him. He comes up with the pins when we need them most."
"I'd probably do better in wrestling if I were more dedicated to it," said Hall. "Wrestling is a crazy man's sport. Practices are really hard, and not as much fun as football practice. I guess I'm just lucky I am a good wrestler."
Hall is not likely to wrestle his first year at Virginia. He says, "Freshman year I just want to concentrate on football and my classes. I've spoken with the wrestling coach. I'd like to wrestle again as a sophomore."
Hall's plans to stick with wrestling will please Jenkins, who says of Hall, "He's the best high school heavyweight I have ever seen stepping on the mat."
Whether it's football, wrestling or academics, those who know Hall are confident the National Honor Society student will excel. As Jenkins said: "He's aggressive, quick, and intelligent. Anything he decides to do, he will do well."