Prior to a dual meet match against Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, Norris Kpamegan stepped to the front of the mat and received a white rose. It was Senior Day, and all the seniors on Col. Zadok Magurder’s team were being honored.
Kpamegan, a broad, stout, bald and muscular senior, has developed into one of the program’s best wrestlers, which is a far cry from what he looked like four years ago.
“In middle school, I was a really small, fat kid,” Kpamegan said. “My brother told me wrestling was a good way to lose weight. I joined halfway through freshman year and loved it. I stuck around, went to extra practices and did anything I could do to better myself.”
In four seasons, Kpamegan has morphed from an overweight and timid freshman into one of the rapidly-improving wrestlers in Montgomery County in the heavier weight classes. He entered his freshman year weighing 200 pounds and without much muscle. Last week, he weighed in at 180 and wrestled in the 195-pound slot.
In the Jan. 30 match against Bethesda-Chevy Chase’s Gus Medrano, Kpamegan scored a 12-3 major decision in a supremely-sound effort. He displayed strength, tactics and style in his win against Medrano — a credit to the hard work he has devoted toward improving his craft in four short seasons. It looked nothing like the unsure wrestler Kpamegan said he was in 2010.
“Freshman and sophomore year, I had a bad mentality,” he said. “I would go out scared and nervous. I wouldn’t know what to do. Over time, I’ve been getting better with that. I still have a slight problem with it now, but it’s more on the mat, not the mentality. I’ve been working hard to continue to better myself.”
Kpamegan moved from Pennsylvania to Maryland while he was in middle school and began playing percussion in middle school. He plays snare drum in the Colonels’ marching back. His role in the band — the heartbeat of the section, the rock upon which all the other performers rely — is mirrored by his role on the wrestling team. As a captain, Kpamegan leads by example, pushing his teammates through his hard work ethic and effort. He placed third at Hub Cup and fourth at Mad Mats this season in a bevy of close matches.
“He definitely leads by example,” said Magruder coach A.J. Tao. “He’s not as vocal a leader as other captains, but he leaves it out on the mat. He wrestles tough, and that’s what I like about him. I don’t think he’s ever going regret any of his matches.”
As the junior varsity matches began at Magruder last week, a pair of Kpamegan’s teammates teased their captain as he was talking to reporters. “I look up to you, man. I really do,” one yelled. Followed by another, taller, wrestler shouting, “Yeah, but I look down to you.”
The Colonels have had a solid season despite a plague of injuries that slowed their progress a bit, finishing 10-4 as co-Division 1 champs. Brent Martin, Magruder’s 160-pounder and Kpamegan’s practice partner, said the team is “full of surprises.”
“Working with Norris is great because he’s always working hard,” Martin said. “You can always expect a good partner in practice, and he never takes days off. He’s a real good leader.”
Kpamegan is still waiting to hear from Georgetown University and American University, and he’s already been accepted to Towson. He hopes to study economics and pursue a career in corporate law.
“The fact that you go out by yourself, that’s what I love about wrestling,” he said. “It’s a team sport, but it’s a lot of individual work. You have to work hard so you can learn the moves and do what you need to do to win. It’s a big burden, but if you win your match and that made the whole team win, it’s a great feeling to have.”