Maryland heavyweight Spencer Myers has been looking forward to getting back on the mat. After earning All-American status as a true freshman, Myers had to cope with a quick elimination from the NCAA Tournament as a sophomore that was compounded by a knee injury that required surgery in May of 2012. The surgery meant that Meyers took a redshirt year as a junior. Though he wrestled in some open tournaments as part of his rehab, he had to sit on the sidelines watching in frustration unable to help his team as they dropped several close matches when he thought he could have helped put them over the top.
Last week, the Terps traveled to the west coast to face Stanford in a dual meet. Though Myers, who is currently ranked seventh in the country in his weight class, won his match by a 5-1 score, the Terps dropped the match 17-16 on the third tiebreaking criterion.
So you have an idea about the somewhat arcane world of NCAA wrestling scoring, it goes like this: The first criterion for determining the winning team is simply the total points won by each team from the matches wrestled. A team earns three points for each match it wins with bonus points awarded depending on the scope of the win. For example, a fall (or pin) earns three bonus points for a total of six team points. If the teams are tied, you go to criterion number two which is the combined total number of falls, forfeits, defaults and disqualifications. This means that instead of it being the team with greater number of techs and falls, it's the team with the greater number of 6-point victories. Still tied? Then you look at number three which is total match points scored only from decisions, major decisions and technical falls (I'll explain these terms in a future article.) This is where the Cardinal out scored the Terrapins 63-57. Believe it or not, there is a fourth tiebreaking procedure in which the dual meet is awarded to the team that scored the first takedown.
As for Myers, he began wrestling under his father's tutelage when he was eight or nine years old. Because he was big for his age, he often lost those early matches to older boys he had to wrestle. He became a three sport star in high school winning state gold medals in wrestling and football as a senior and falling just short of gold medal status in the discus. But he felt the greatest affinity for wrestling. "It's one of those things - you just can't give it up," he told me. "Even when I was younger and losing all those matches, I couldn't blame anybody else because it's a one on one sport. So I'd think that I had to fire back. I had to beat this kid for the first time. I just had to train harder until I got to his level and then surpassed it. That's one of the things I love about the sport."
The Terrapin heavyweight from Selinsgrove, PA used the determination he developed at a young age and his love for the sport to come back from his May 2012 surgery. He began the rehabilitation process almost immediately and at the end of two and sometimes three daily trips to the training room to receive treatment and workout, found himself back on the mat in eight months. "I was trying to get the muscle memory back into what I'd been doing before. I was tired of just being able to watch and go through it in my head." Though the knee injury was the worst of his career, Myers told me, "Being a wrestler you always have nagging injuries. Sprained ankle - you wrestle through it. Broken fingers - you wrestle through it. I had surgery on my wrist after my freshman year. I'd actually torn up my wrist at the end of my junior year in high school and we didn't know about it until after my freshman year of college. I was in the weight room and I started to do a power clean and it gave out on me." Clearly, Myers knows how to wrestle through it.
By the time he got to the mat in Friday night's dual match against the Penn Quakers, Myers would have to psychologically wrestle through it as nothing he could do in his return would help the Terps take the match. Penn opened with a decision in the 125 pound weight class to take an early 3-0 lead but the Terps stormed back to take a 7-3 lead with Shyheim Brown's decision ate 145 coming on the heels of Tyler Goodwin's major decision at 133 pounds. The Quakers swept the next four matches (149, 157, 165, 174) before second ranked Jimmy Sheptock pulled the Terps within three with a decision over eleventh ranked Lorenzo Thomas. In the biggest upset of the match, Penn's Frank Mattiace earned a major decision over tenth ranked Christian Boley to give the Quakers a 19-10 margin with just the heavyweight match remaining. Even with a fall, Myers could only earn six points for Maryland. After a late takedown by Penn's Steven Graziano forced a sudden victory round, Myers bounced back with a takedown of his own and captured a 6-4 decision.
As intimidating as he can appear on the mat, Myers has a rather surprising goal off it. When he committed to Maryland, he expected to enter the school's prestigious engineering program. Once he enrolled, he changed his major to business. Why? He plans to open a restaurant when his wrestling career ends. "I love to cook. I cook all the time. I cook just about every meal except the ones my parents send me. Sometimes I cook for my teammates because it's just a nice thing to do." I have no doubt that if he brings the same intensity and passion to his restaurant as he does to wrestling, he'll succeed.