Chopticon senior Garrett Black is one of the best wrestlers in the state. He's also one of the most experienced and well traveled.
Black, who placed third at the Maryland 4A/3A tournament last season and will compete this year in the 135-pound class, has been wrestling since he was 6 years old. He wrestles year-round and he gets around: He has competed in tournaments as far away as Fargo, N.D., and in at least eight other states. Last summer, he competed in the Cliff Keen Iron Man Tournament at the University of Michigan and the Mid-Atlantic Eastern Nationals at Scranton (Pa.) University. He also traveled to New Jersey and Virginia.
"His father has been taking him around the country to wrestle for as long as I can remember," said Chopticon Coach Dane Kramer, whose team will host the Chopticon Invitational this weekend. "Wrestling isn't a three-month sport for the Black family. It's a year-round commitment."
Black's father, Robert, wrestled in high school in Pennsylvania. His younger brothers, Eli, 13, and Lucas, 11, compete in youth leagues in Southern Maryland. Garrett Black began his career at the St. Mary's Wrestling Club and United Youth Club in Anne Arundel County, but he joined the Southern Maryland Wrestling Club (SMWC) when he got to Chopticon.
"When I first started wrestling, I wasn't that good," said Black, who went 33-5 last season with 21 falls or technical falls. "But I stuck with it and got a little better every year. By the time I got to middle school, I realized I was pretty good."
Black went 26-10 his freshman season at Chopticon and placed third in SMAC and fourth at the Maryland 3A South tournament at 112 pounds. He improved to 28-7 his sophomore season with 13 falls or technical falls. He was second in SMAC and first in the region at 125.
Last season, Black won the South River Tournament and was second in the SMAC. He also placed second in Folkstyle, third in Greco and sixth in Freestyle at the prestigious Iron Man Tournament in Michigan. He was fifth in Folkstyle at the Mid-Atlantic Eastern Nationals and first in Folkstyle at the Potomac Valley All-Star Challenge Cup.
"He carries himself like a wrestler," Kramer said. "He's not chiseled in stone, but he's a tough-looking kid. . . . He's excellent on his feet, and he has a variety of moves from the down or top positions."
In hopes of winning his first state title, Black hit the weight room in the offseason and added a few pounds of muscle. He also worked out with SMWC member and former All-Met Wrestler of the Year Jason Gabrielson.
"Having more muscle is always an advantage," said Black, who can bench-press 225 pounds. "But getting to wrestle with Jason was an amazing experience. He's the best of the best, and I learned a lot."
Black also learns from his father, who drives him to tournaments in the offseason and tapes most of his matches at Chopticon. If all goes well, Robert Black could be driving his son to the 11th annual NHSCA Senior National High School Wrestling Championships, to be held March 24-26 in Pittsburgh.
"I like taking road trips," Garrett Black said. "It's the way our family bonds. . . . Hopefully, we have a few more left."
CAPTION: Garrett Black began wrestling at age 6. "By the time I got to middle school, I realized I was pretty good," he says.
CAPTION: Black has competed as far away as North Dakota. Wrestling is "a year- round commitment," his coach says.