For High Point wrestling coach Steve Ruckert, "It felt great, a feeling I've had before when I won something. It hit me all at once and it kept me high for three days."

For 185-pounder Mike Burke, "It was unreal to believe we won. I felt so happy inside."

For heavyweight Paul Hill it was a very simple happiness, "I'm just glad we won."

All three will remember the Maryland state wrestling championships which came to a climatic finish just two weeks ago today at Catonsville Community College.

Ruckert had directed his grapplers to the state title.

For Burke and Hill, there was the satisfaction of individual titles.

High point had been in fourth place, 16 1/2 points from the lead, before Burke and Hill had their chances to wrestle.

"My goal before the season," recalled second-year head coach Ruckert, "was to win the dual meet championship which we did with a 13-0 record. I thought it would be really nice to win the county tournament as that would be an indication of a really strong squad. We were just one win away (finishing third behind Bowie and Laurel) so I wasn't too disappointed. We were thtre."

The regional and state tournament? "Well, to tell the truth, they were not a fixation in my mind," noted Ruckert. "I was more concerned with qualifying the kids and individual championships. A state title can mean a lot in getting a wrestler a college scholarship."

So Ruckert did not inform his two charges that not only were they wrestling for individual crowns, but for team glory as well.

"I knew I would win," said Burke.

"I'd gone too far to lose."

The beginning of his journey though was not in the traditional state champ mold. He started wrestling when he was cut by his ninth-grade basketball coach and decided he had "to do something so people don't think I'm a nurd."

As a 155-pound sophomore he showed Ruckert "some potential, but nothing super."

As a junior, he was unbeaten in dual meets at 167 pounds, but was beaten twice in the county tournament. This winter he was 13-0 in dual competition, including 11 pins. In the sectional tournament, Burke fell behind in the final, 7-0, and lost, 9-8, to Preston White of Crossland.

In the county tournament, he again faced White in the final and dropped an 11-5 decision, but the top four wrestlers advanced to the State tourney.

"I know it doesn't sound right, but I was waiting for the state tourney," said Burke. "In the county and regional I'd sit in the stands with my girl friend until time to wrestle, laughing and talking. But for the states, I ran three miles every day, and, well, I'd start a fight before I'd lose."

The wrestling career of 220-pound Paul Hill had been one of frustration. Recruited by his junior high coach to wrestle in eighth grade, Hill suffered a broken elbow that ended his ninth-grade season early. He eventually tried out for the high school squad and wrestled mostly junior varsity as a sophomore.

"My junior year was very frustrating," noted Hill. "I wrestled only four varsity matches."

Last summer was devoted to working construction and pumping iron, two activities geared toward an improved grappling season.

"When I started the year I knew I'd improve, but I wasn't sure how much," explained Hill. "My first indication came when I started beating Burke in practice. But I wasn't really sure until a few matches into the season, when I met (Pat) Brady for the first time."

Brady, who wrestles for Crossland, was the only opponent that Hill did not steamroll during a 25-0, 21-pin season. In fact, Hill's four decisions were all against his chief rival.

Hill beat Brady, 9-6, for the sectional title. He printed Laurel's Kent McDonald for the county crown. Brady fell 8-0 to Hill in the regional title bout.

While Hill prepared for his State title match, Burke took to the mat, confident and certain of the result.

"He (Dundalk's Dan Souts) didn't even look very strong, until I grabbed him." They wrestled to a 2-2 draw through six minutes of regulation, setting up an overtime period.

"The coach told me to talk sure I scored the first points of overtime," said Burke. "If you tie through overtime the decision goes to whoever scored first." Burke got the opening take down, and after a 3-3 stand off, the state crown via an officials' decision.

Hill's attitude was more cautious although he was to meet Brady for the fourth time.

"I knew I could beat him (Brady) because I already had three times. But for the same reason I knew he would be very psyched. When we came out for the match to shake hands, he was really mean. I wanted to be extra careful."

With team and individual titles on the line, Brady and Hill were in a scoreless stalemate after two periods.

"I knew I'd get him in the third because he gets tired first," recalled Hill. He finished with a 5-2 victory.

The final team tally was High Point 59 1/2, Overlea of Baltimore 58, Laurel 54 1/2 and Bowie 54.

"I kissed the team title goodbye just before the tournament when we found out Steve Marlo (145) had mono," recalled Ruckert. "In fact the doctor said he had actually had it for sometime, that he probably won the county tournament and finished second in the regionals with it.

But High Point got enough team points from Chris Kellenher (98), Steve Chapman (119), Kevin Firday (126) and Gary Myzick (167) to set the stage for the Burke-Hill surge.

And what now for the champions? Burke and Hill are each waiting and hoping for contact with college wrestling coaches.

"If we don't hear from some folks soon," explains Burke, "we've got a list of schools to write. We've also toyed with the idea of starting our own construction company, call it Burkehill," he chuckled.

Ruckert expects "people will know our name now from wrestling. It should help get more kids out for the team, both sophomores up from junior high and kids that didn't try out this year. We have an open wrestling room two nights a week. I was there last night and there must have been 40 people there. I've never seen anything like that a High Point."