Owings Mills, Pritzker Aim to Continue Winning Tradition
For his 28th season, Guy Pritzker presides over a wrestling program that has made a name for itself in Maryland. This year's squad is ranked No. 7 in the Baltimore Sun's preseason poll.
When Guy Pritzker arrived at Owings Mills High School nearly three decades ago in 1983, faculty and staff assumed they had hired a math instructor adept at teaching concepts involving quadratic equations and absolute value expressions.
However, the athletic department was unaware that this algebra teacher also intended on perfecting a formula that would equate to a powerhouse wrestling program that has dominated in the state of Maryland for nearly a generation.
Embarking on his 28th season as head wrestling coach at Owings Mills, Pritzker has amassed 11 state, 25 region and 14 county championships.
He's produced a remarkable 28 individual state champions and his 433 overall wins are the most of any active coach in Baltimore County.
Yet, despite all the success – from the gaudy number of state titles to the individual accolades – Pritzker attributes his teams' accomplishments to a blueprint (or formula, in math terminology) that he established from the beginning.
"It's not one person that makes a program, it's everything," said Pritzker, who received the 2010 Johnny Eareckson Award, for Maryland's 'Wrestling Man of the Year'. "I've been coaching a junior league program for 36 years based in Randallstown. In 1983 I moved the program to Owings Mills, started getting my own kids and drawing from the area. That's where it all got started. I've had real good coaches, some great parents and great kids."
"You got to have a lot of good kids in your room," he continued, "a junior league program and a JV – half of [the varsity] comes from the junior league, half from the JV. The kids make each other better. We have good kids wrestling good kids. So everyone gets good."
While the talent of the kids and the support from parents are the variables, Pritzker's junior league program has been the constant.
By relocating the program to Owings Mills, the now 56-year old coach created a virtual pipeline to his high school program that enabled him to work with his future players beginning at a young age.
As a result, when it came time for Pritzker's prodigies to wrestle at the high school level, they were not only acclimated to the coach's methods of schooling, but friends with him as well.
"I've been wrestling for Guy since I was in junior league wrestling," said junior Taran Carr, one of the program's top returnees. "I've been around him a lot and established a friendship with him. I've learned a lot of things from him – more than just wrestling. He's helped me out in school, things like that. There are a lot of things I wouldn't have been able to do without [people like Guy] supporting me. "
Carr at the 152-pound weight class and brothers sophomore Demetrius and senior Larry Johnson (135 and 160, respectively) all placed in the state tournament a year ago and return to help comprise a dangerous varsity lineup choc-full of county and region champions, in addition to proven winners at the JV level.
Pritzker also returns senior leaders Brandon Hoffman (140) and Kenny Nunez (189), as well as junior Warren Mack (112), who went 31-1 a year ago en route to winning the county championship before breaking his arm prior to the region and state tournaments.
The Eagles will get even stronger in January when senior Muhammed Ali (171) returns from a dislocated elbow.
Owings Mills came in ranked seventh in the Baltimore Sun's preseason poll, the highest of any Baltimore County team.
However, the talented varsity lineup and preseason respect is nothing new for a squad that has earned that type of reputation over the years.
Not bad, considering that when Pritzker arrived as a 29-year old way back in 1983, the current athletic director was set to dismantle the wrestling program.
"'I said what? What are you talking about?'" Pritzker countered, upon hearing that news.
"I told him I wanted to start a program – I was hired to be a wrestling coach. He said, 'I thought you wanted to be a math teacher?' I said, 'yeah, that too.'"