St. Paul’s Planta try­ing to join an elite group

Stand­out at 126 pounds would be the sixth to win four MIS cham­pi­onships Sta­tis­tics aside, ground game is work­ing into shape at just the right mo­ment

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Tim Schwartz By Jeff Zre­biec

It’s an il­lus­tri­ous group of five wrestlers, in­clud­ing the state’s all-time wins leader and a three-time NCAA All-Amer­i­can, who have a com­bined 1,018 vic­to­ries.

St. Paul’s se­nior Daniel Planta hopes to be next.

Planta, a three-time Mary­land In­de­pen­dent Schools cham­pion, could be­come the sixth wrestler to win four MIS ti­tles.

“I fig­ured it would be some­thing like that. It’s hard to do and ob­vi­ously it would

Win­ter pre­view

With the high school win­ter sea­son set to be­gin, our sport-by-sport pre­views con­tinue to­day with wrestling. See PG 4 for polls and wrestlers to watch. Boys and girls bas­ket­ball will run Fri­day. be pretty cool,” Planta said of join­ing DeMatha’s Mike Rowe, Mount Saint Joseph’s Mack Lewnes, Bishop Mc­Na­mara’s Al­fred Bannister, McDonogh’s Josh Fitch and St. Paul’s Eric Fried­man as four-time pri­vate school state cham­pi­ons. “I re­mem­ber my dad, back in my fresh­man year after my first year win­ning it, he said, ‘That’s your first one on your path to four, but you

Ter­rance West wasn’t go­ing there. The Ravens had just beaten the Cincin­nati Ben­gals to move into a first-place tie with the Pitts­burgh Steel­ers in the AFC North. Any­thing be­yond that, in­clud­ing a ques­tion Sun­day about whether the coach­ing staff showed enough com­mit­ment to the run game against the Ben­gals, was ir­rel­e­vant to him.

“Whether we ran the ball or didn’t run the ball, we came away with the win,” West said. “So let’s keep it pos­i­tive and keep it go­ing.” As the Ravens pre­pare for Sun­day’s game against the Mi­ami Dol­phins at M&T Bank Sta­dium, the key play­ers in their run­ning game — in­clud­ing emerg­ing rookie Ken­neth Dixon — aren’t con­sumed by what has or hasn’t hap­pened through the sea­son’s first 11 games. They’re not hung up on the team’s poor NFL rank­ing Daniel Planta, a three-time Bal­ti­more Sun All-Metro first-team se­lec­tion, is ranked No. 16 in the coun­try at 126 pounds by In­terMat and is com­mit­ted to Penn.

have to go one at a time.’ That’s kind of the thought process I’ve had.”

Planta, who is ranked No. 16 in the coun­try at 126 pounds by In­terMat and is com­mit­ted to Penn, has a long list of ac­com­plish­ments on and off the mat. The three-time first-team Bal­ti­more Sun All-Metro se­lec­tion is 143-20 in his ca­reer and has won­three Mary­land In­ter­scholas­tic Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion ti­tles. He has also won Mary­land State Wrestling As­so­ci­a­tion Freestyle state ti­tles and been named to the as­so­ci­a­tion’s all-aca­demic team the past three years.

But even first-year coach Rob Eiter knows how spe­cial it would be for his se­nior leader to be the 11th wrestler, pub­lic and pri­vate, in Mary­land high school wrestling to win four state ti­tles.

Aberdeen’s Matt Slutzky, Owings Mills’ Steve Kessler, Here­ford’s Josh Asper, South­ern- Gar­rett’s Ge­orge Scheffel and Cen­ten­nial’s Nathan Kraisser all won four pub­lic school state cham­pi­onships.

“To be hon­est with you, I didn’t know there were only a hand­ful of guys to do that,” said Eiter, a 1996 Olympian and for­mer head coach at Penn and as­sis­tant at Mary­land. “I’ll ex­plain it to him — that might not be a big deal to Daniel, but it will be look­ing back, to put his name in the record books and be in that class of Mary­land ath­letes. It would be spe­cial for him and will be some­thing five or 10 years from now he can look back on and say, ‘That was pretty cool.’ ”

De­spite all the suc­cess on the state level, Planta has yet to make a ma­jor splash on the na­tional stage. He hopes to change that this sea­son and make a run at win­ning ti­tles at the Beast of the East, Pow­er­ade and Na­tional Preps tour­na­ments — three of the tough­est in the coun­try.

“I want to place bet­ter at some of those tour­na­ments. Win­ning MIAA and MIS states are ob­vi­ously goals, since I’ve done that the last three years, and Preps is an­other big goal since it’s at the end of the year,” said Planta, who has placed third twice and sixth last year at Na­tional Preps. “This year I know I have a le­git­i­mate shot at mak­ing the fi­nals, if not win­ning it. I re­ally want to make a good show­ing there since it’s go­ing to be my last go-around.”

Planta isn’t the only Cru­sader with high as­pi­ra­tions this win­ter. Kurt McHenry and Dale Tiong­son both won MIAA and MIS ti­tles last year and fin­ished in the top three at Na­tional Preps in their weight classes. Planta thinks the key to his and his team­mates’ suc­cess this sea­son could be their new coach.

“I think through my first three years at St. Paul’s we had some re­ally solid coaches, but I think hav­ing Coach Eiter ... it’s a whole [new] level,” he said.

No. 3 St. Paul’s be­gins its reg­u­lar sea­son Satur­day at the Sky­line Tour­na­ment in Vir­ginia and will host Boys’ Latin and No. 1 Mount Saint Joseph on Mon­day.

KARL MER­TON FERRON/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

Ter­rance West Ravens rookie run­ning back Ken­neth Dixon, gain­ing a first down Sun­day against the Ben­gals, has av­er­aged more than 5 yards per carry over his past three games.

KARL MER­TON FERRON/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

KARL MER­TON FERRON/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

Daniel Planta would be the 11th Mary­land wrestler, count­ing pub­lic as well as pri­vate schools, to win four state cham­pi­onships. “To be hon­est with you, I didn’t know there were only a hand­ful of guys to do that,” his coach, Rob Eiter, said.

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