As the possibility crept toward reality, Middletown High School senior Matt Capobianco perked up.
His body language on the bench, after watching his Knights fall into a 27-3 hole against Oakdale in a key wrestling matchup on Saturday, changed significantly as Middletown’s lightweights racked up points.
Soon, there were two matches remaining and the Knights trailed the Bears by six. Capobianco, Middletown’s 145-pounder, was scheduled to wrestle last. But in order for him to have a chance at sealing the victory, he needed his teammate, Hayden Roberts, to come away with a win.
Throughout Roberts’ thrilling match, Capobianco paced the area behind Middletown’s bench wearing an all-black sweat suit. He jogged in place, rolled his neck and bowed his head.
“In the beginning I was disappointed,” Capobianco said. “I didn’t think we were in position, but once I saw that we were in it, mentally I got really fired up. I got a sweat going and got my body ready to give 100 percent. You’ve got to go out there with the right mindset.”
And even though Roberts ultimately fell short, losing in overtime and ending Middletown’s hopes of remaining undefeated against Frederick County opponents, Capobianco still performed at a high level, dominating his opponent, 14-5.
It’s nothing new for the senior captain at Middletown, who finished second in last year’s Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association Class 2A/1A wrestling tournament. As a junior, he went 38-5 and lost a thrilling finals match to Fallston’s Zach Cullison, 6-5.
“This is Matt’s year. As far as I’m concerned, it’s all about Matt right now,” said Bob Ziegler, one of Capobianco’s offseason coaches. “He’s almost too good to be true.”
While competing throughout his senior season, Capobianco has sacrificed his personal success for the good of the team. Coach Jim Schartner has, at times, slotted the nimble Capobianco all the way up to the 160-pound weight class, where he wrestled Catoctin’s Collin Schildt and lost.
“I’ve had a few matches where I’ve been disappointed with my wrestling. I’ve been bumping up for the team and helping the team out and now I’m in a position to make it back to the state finals,” Capobianco said. “It’s great being on that stage, so I’m working as hard as I can to make it back there and bring it home this time.”
Capobianco’s efforts not only in shifting weight classes, but as an energetic and upbeat leader, haven’t gone unnoticed by Schartner.
“He’s been a great leader for us this year,” he said. “He’s bumped around and he’s wrestled all over the place for us. He’s a great team player. In the sport of wrestling, most people don’t see it. How does he do it? He leads in the practice room. He’ll sacrifice his individual record for the team record, which he’s done all year.”
For a majority of the season, Capobianco has been wrestling with a wrap on his left hand after he fractured his thumb during the preseason. He was wrestling South Carroll coach Bryan Hamper when the injury occurred.
“I missed some time at the beginning of the season, but I didn’t miss any matches,” Capobianco said. “When I’m wrestling, I don’t really notice it. I can do everything I used to do, I just don’t have a thumb, so I use a hook instead of grabbing. It was weird to get used to, but it’s fine now.”
Capobianco was introduced to wrestling in 2003 and was instantly drawn to the sport. He has had a fair amount of success throughout various levels of competition.
A National Honor Society student, Capobianco hopes to attend and wrestle for Washington & Lee University, Gettysburg College or McDaniel College in the fall.
“I tried playing basketball, but I wasn’t playing by the rules,” he said with a laugh. “I was a little rough with the guys, so my dad thought wrestling would be great for me.
“I tried soccer and football, but I couldn’t stand playing outside because it was so cold. Wrestling was a change of pace. I like the individual competition of it. There’s no one to blame when you lose.”