There was a point two years ago when Carroll High School wrestler Kevin Walsh got tired of losing. And unfortunately for his future opponents, he did something about it.

An offseason conditioning program and a more aggressive approach on the mat led to a 25-9 record at 98 pounds last season. This season, Walsh is 12-0 at 105 pounds and was the most valuable wrestler in the recent Sidwell Friends tournament. He is also the Lions' captain.

Because he didn't expect much success when he began wrestling three years ago, it mattered little when he lost, a common occurrence his sophomore season.

"I was always the sort of athlete that was never a superstar," he said. "I never expected to wrestle. My idea of wrestling {then} was the type you see Hulk Hogan doing on TV."

That attitude showed on the mat. Walsh lost his early matches, and how he looked doing it bothered him. "I kind of dogged it. I wanted to do well, but I didn't expect to do well," he said. "But I definitely enjoyed winning."

One thing he didn't lose, though, was the confidence of his wrestling coach and English teacher, Richard Lane.

The two grew closer, especially since Lane would often give Walsh rides to the subway station after practice. Their discussions covered everything from wrestling to politics to philosophy. Subtly, Lane persuaded Walsh to take an intellectual approach to his wrestling and schoolwork.

And Walsh listened.

Although he was never a bad student, his studies have also taken an upswing. You can tell a lot about a student through the English compositions he turns in, and Lane noticed more feeling in Walsh's writing. "Kevin's really smart," Lane said. "I can explain to him to do something, and he can see that light at the end of the tunnel."

He played sports such as T-ball and basketball as a youngster, but was never a standout. Worst of all, he wondered why he was playing.

But when he went to the beach the summer after his freshman year, Walsh's muscular build deceived people. "People were always asking me if I was a wrestler. I said, 'No,' and they told me I should try it," he said.

One of those people was former Lions captain Matt Alexander, who talked Walsh into joining the team. Walsh's motivation even then was half-hearted: he just wanted to earn a varsity letter.

Lane, a patient coach, convinced Walsh to work on having a better attitude and being more aggressive for next season. The 5-foot-1 Walsh could wrestle either at 98 or 105 pounds, but needed more strength.

He began running and lifting weights in the offseason, and concentrated on winning.

Lane wanted Walsh to approach wrestling logically, the same way he did his English work. If Walsh went into a match with one strategy and a roadblock developed, Lane wanted him to go to an alternate plan so he would not get into further trouble. That would help him build the mental resiliency he lacked.

Walsh is now forceful in his matches. Rather than waiting for his opponent to make the first move, Walsh now sets a plan and paces himself in his execution.

"If you analyze an opponent's weaknesses, you also analyze his strengths to try to have as many advantages as you can," Walsh said. "If you think too much you can psyche yourself out, but I try not to do that now."

Walsh also spent last summer at the Iowa Intensive Wrestling Camp run by Minnesota wrestling coach John Robinson, a former Iowa assistant coach. The grueling camp helped polish his moves. The camp is so tough that the graduates wear the shirts they receive like a badge of honor.

"He's coming from nowhere to be a force to be reckoned with," said Lane of Walsh's improvement. "But it was a lot of hard work."

Walsh credited the camp and weightlifting with changing his attitude toward workouts. "Before, I was always tired. I'd go home and watch TV," he said. "I was glad {practice} was over, but I was also embarrassed. But I thought if you give up, you'd never accomplish anything."

Walsh is off to a good start this season, but has yet to peak athletically. He has not been in the sport long enough to pin his opponents consistently, but has dominated some matches.

"I'm willing to go to all fair lengths to win," Walsh said. "At the same time, I try to work myself as hard as possible. I'm willing to sacrifice the time, effort and body. If I lose, I try to take it well, but I let it get to me enough so that I work hard the next time."

Because of his late start in the sport, he hasn't won many awards. One of his goals is to surpass his fifth-place finish in last year's St. Albans Tournament; winning the Sidwell tournament has given him a good start.

Walsh said it is too soon to consider the possibility of wrestling in college. His inauspicious beginning makes his cautious about pushing his luck.

His plans are simple. "I just want to do the absolute best I can, and try not to limit myself," he said. "I'm always striving for perfection. I never want to be satisfied, and I'm always trying to do better."

His only regret is not taking wrestling more seriously sooner.