Wilde Lake’s Alvin Harris is on a roll.
Last Saturday, the 171-pound senior pulled one of the upsets of the year, winning a Howard County championship clash of returning county titlists, 7-5, over Reservoir’s Mark Colabucci, ending a run of 75 consecutive victories that had included going 44-0 for last year’s 145-pound, Class 4A-3A state title.
Harris could be wrestling before a partisan crowd on Friday and Saturday night when his Wildecats play host to the Class 4A-3A East Regional Tournament — and a likely rematch with Colabucci — as he attempts to earn his first regional crown after being a 215-pound runner-up to Meade’s state champ, Mwanza Wamalumba a year ago.
Harris has come a long way since donning a wrestling singlet for the first time as a ninth grader.
As a freshman, Harris was pinned in the first-ever match of his career by three-time state champion, Maurice Fleming, and failed to place in the junior varsity tournament, according to his coach, Azmar Hagler.
As a sophomore, Harris placed third at counties and fourth at regions, being the Wildecats’ lone state qualifier that season.
Last year, Harris earned his first county title, was regional runner-up and sixth at states — all while giving up massive amounts of weight at 215 pounds.
But Harris is no stranger to upsets and underdogs status.
As a running back-linebacker on the Wildecats’ Class 3A state title-winning football team this past fall, Harris was a chief catalyst for a team that avenged regular season losses with playoff victories on the road, respectively, against county rivals Atholton and River Hill.
In the state semifinals, the visiting Wildecats pinned the first loss of the year on Damascus of Montgomery County, which entered the game as the state’s No. 1-ranked team, public school or private, and with a record of 12-0.
Harris scored a touchdown in three playoff games, and executed extremely well in the Wildecats’ 21-14 championship victory over Franklin of Baltimore County.
This past Tuesday, following a grueling workout, Varsity Sports Network caught up to Harris for this Q&A.
So how do you feel?
Alvin Harris: Right now, I feel pretty exhausted after this brutal practice. But, you know, I’ve got to keep working. Mark Colabucci was at the practice. He was pretty calm, I guess.
We’re not talking right now, although we usually say, ‘What’s up’ to each other. But obviously we’re not having the conversations that we normally would.
Before we wrestled, we would say, ‘What’s up’ to each other maybe before weighing in. But after this, right now, he didn’t say anything.
What do you recall about being pinned by Maurice Fleming as a first-year wrestler in your first-ever wrestling match and your first season in the sport overall?
I mean, that first match for me was like the first year overall. It was me just learning about the sport and learning what it was all about.
Learning the moves and all of that. I didn’t even place in the junior varsity tournament. After that first summer, I got to thinking, ‘You know, if I can do this, or if I do that, I could be so much better.’
I just had so much motivation to do better than I had done the year before.
When did you come to the realization that you could make an impact in this sport?
It was my sophomore year when I made it to states. I was the only one. I was just glad that I had made it there my sophomore year. I tried to win, but it didn’t work out as planned.
Then Coach Azmar and Coach [Lloyd] Keaser talked to me, and they bascially said, ‘Now that you’ve made it, you’ve got a taste of what it’s like.’ They said that ‘You have to come back the next year and actually place.’
How much did you actually weigh while competing at 215 pounds last year and what did that do for your abilities heading into this season?
I weighed about 175. It just helped me look at this year like, even though people had weight on me, I could be faster than them. Going to 171 this year helped me to realize that even though people had speed, I could still use my own speed and wrestle with them.
The kids are much faster at 171 than they are at 215, but I feel like I have both power and speed from being at 215. That makes me realize that I can use my speed and strength.
The 171-pounders have a little more speed than the guys at 215, but the 215-pounders have way more strength. So if you feel me, it’s like a balance of speed, strength and technique that I have now at 171.
Can you shed any light on your upset, 7-5, loss to unheralded Marschall Chang of Winters Mill while competing at 189 pounds?
Well, I was very sick that day. The night after that match I got a temperature of 102.7. But I regretted that match the so badly. The whole time I was just sick. But how could I let somebody just dominate me like that and I didn’t even do anything about it.
So from that point on, I just wanted to work and to get better. Coach Azmar and Coach Keaser were mad when it first happened. But from there, they just kept talking to me and telling me that it’s over now.
They just told me to work harder from there and that’s exactly what I’ve done.
Did their motivational speeches resonate when you were down, 5-0, and began your successful comeback win over Mark Colabucci?
Yeah, you know, it just feels so much better being on the winning side rather than losing. I love a challenge. If you don’t push through situations like that, you will never get anywhere.
So do you feel like The Man now, or do you still feel as though you’re sort of an underdog who still has to prove that your win over Mark Colabucci was not a fluke?
I still have something to prove, because like Coach Keaser always says, ‘If you put two people on the mat and make them wrestle every day for eight days straight, you never know what the outcome will be.’
So I just feel as if I’ve got to prove it again and again to make sure that you know that it will be the same result.
Do you pinch yourself given the football and wrestling seasons you’ve had?
I don’t feel like I’m on top of the world, but I certainly look back and thank God for everything that he’s allowed me to do. It feels great to have had the football state championship season and to be able to come back and have the wrestling.
Football was definitely a confidence booster. Now, you know what it’s like to have been a state champion in something at least. It gave me a big confidence boost.
Now that you’ve beaten a state champion wrestler, to you feel encouraged that you can top that off with regional and state titles?
Yeah, I think so. Actually, I definitely know so.