At this point, Anthoney Savage isn’t fazed by the misspellings.
He used to be, he of the unusually-placed ‘e’ in his first name, but now he doesn’t pay it much attention.
“I’ve seen it misspelled so much,” said Savage, a junior wrestler at Oakdale High School. “So many times. At first it does get to you, but then you just learn to live with it.”
According to Savage, there’s no real reason his mother named him that way other than “wanting something different.”
“I feel more unique,” Savage said.
He’s certainly unique in more areas than onomastics, though. Especially on the wrestling mat.
Savage, Oakdale’s 120-pounder, is enjoying a sterling junior season. Currently, he’s 34-2 heading into counties, regions and states, the year’s three biggest tournaments.
His two losses still stick with him. They motivate him to push harder at every practice and grind through every workout. One was to county rival, Urbana sophomore Morgan Way. The other was to Our Lady of Good Counsel’s Kevin Budock. Savage will likely see Way again this weekend during the county tournament at Gov. Thomas Johnson High School in what could be a great rematch.
“I’m just going to go out there and I’m not going to make the same mistakes I made before,” Savage said. “I’m going to turn the match around so my hand gets raised.”
For his first two high school seasons, Savage attended Tuscarora. He was a large part of the team’s surprise success last year behind undefeated state champion Austin Wenzlaff. Savage lost by one point in the state finals. This season, if anything, he’s supremely confident in his abilities.
“I’m as prepared as I can be. I’m going to go into counties and I’m going to do what I do. I’m going to go into regionals and do what I do. And I will not let anything stand in my way of becoming champ in counties, regionals and states,” Savage said.
When Savage’s family decided to move last summer, he was a bit upset about potentially losing his long-standing relationship with former Tuscarora wrestling coach T.J. Salb. Salb has known Savage since he was 9 and coached Savage as well as his older brother Charles and younger brother Tyler.
But Salb, perhaps serendipitously, had accepted an offer to become a co-coach at Oakdale alongside William Swaney that same summer.
“That was an extreme surprise. I did not expect that at all,” Savage said. “I would have really missed him at Tuscarora if he did not come over.”
Added Salb: “He’s an absolutely great kid. It’s not like a little brother, it’s almost like a son to me. He never gets in trouble and does well in school and always shows up, does whatever you should tell him to do. He’s just a great kid to coach.”
Savage said having Salb by his side eased the normal growing pains associated with changing schools and getting adjusted to a new set of teammates. He said he feels more comfortable taking on a leadership role and letting his teammates know when he sees them getting out of line.
“At first, I was a bit scared coming to Oakdale and everything,” Savage said. His “dream school” is the University of Maryland. “But every single person is accepting to everyone. As soon as I came in there, I had tons of friends. It was incredible.”
As a wrestler who has enjoyed success at pretty much every level since he began grappling at the age of 8, Savage’s most difficult hurdle came in the eighth grade. Before the Little League championship, Savage snapped his collar bone during a practice.
“That’s the only bone I’ve broken, and it’s the most painful thing,” he said.
The recovery, however, was quick. He was moving the joint again within weeks and back on the mat in the recommended six to eight week time period.
Fully healthy and in what he said is the best shape of his life, Savage is excited about the opportunity to potentially capture a state title after falling one point short a season ago.
“Any time you can bring a kid like that into your program, it’s going to increase the level immensely,” Salb said. “He brings the leadership and the commitment to the year-round aspect of the sport and what it takes to be successful day-in and day-out.
“Guys like Anthoney don’t just wrestle from November to March, they wrestle all over the country, all year round. And the guys in the room see that extra bit it takes to be at the top in the room. It makes our job easier.”