06/01/05 — Sander emerges Greco-Roman USA state champion

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Sander emerges Greco-Roman USA state champion

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on June 1, 2005 1:58 PM

PEMBROKE -- Michael Sander paced around like normal as whistles sounded, wrestlers grunted and fans cheered during the 34th annual N.C. State USA Wrestling Championships on the UNC Pembroke campus.

Sander silently planned his strategy and kept a watchful eye on the mat, waiting for the previous match to end. Once the official raised the grappler's hand in victory, Sander shucked his shorts and pulled the straps up over his chest.

It was his turn for a record-setting outing he'd never forget.

Throughout the high school season, Sander yielded 20-plus pounds to his competitors in heavyweight freestyle match competition. The experience proved beneficial in Greco-Roman style, since Sander has tremendous upper-body strength and loves to throw opponents.

"You can't touch below the waist," said the 6-foot, 240-pound Sander. "It's a lot more active ... more high-scoring pace."

A California native who transferred to Rosewood High this season, Sander threw New Bern standout James Lewis to the mat during their Greco-Roman championship match. A few seconds later, the sweet shrill sound of the whistle echoed in Sander's ears as he emerged the Eagles' first-ever state champion on the USA level.

"As soon as he hit the mat, I knew he was pinned ... knew I had won the match," said Sander.

Lewis gained revenge later in the day with an 8-2 decision in their freestyle title match.

Sander qualified for the national duals scheduled June 24-July 7 in Oklahoma and the Greco-Roman/Freestyle National Championships at the end of July in Fargo, N.D.

"I just tried to stay focused, but the wait in between (matches) was tough," said Sander, who wrestled a total of nine matches. "But I decided I wanted to be the first state champion from Rosewood, so that is what I set my sights on."

Sander competes with the Real Heroes Wrestling Club from Smithfield. The team is coached by Christian Stewart, who is the head coach at Smithfield-Selma.

He also got a chance to wrestle in Las Vegas with some old teammates and his old coaching staff. Sander admitted he enjoyed that nearly as much as winning the state title at UNCP's Jones Athletic Center two weekends ago.

Sander runs two miles a day and practices twice a week with Stewart's team at Smithfield-Selma. The workouts aren't as stringent as Sander experienced while competing for Rosewood, but he still drills hard to improve his technique for higher-level USA opponents.

"It's not as intense," Sander said.

The USA Wrestling season concludes in mid-August. Sander isn't sure what his future holds, but he has received attention from Belmont Abbey, a Division II program; and William Penn (Iowa) University, an NAIA school.