Max Anderson still remembers vividly the best match of his wrestling tenure, even if certain parts of his body do not.
Anderson, an eighth-grader living in Bridgeport, Ill., at the time, was wrestling his final match of the season for a spot on the podium in the state tournament. His opponent was massive, but somehow Anderson found himself in the lead entering the third period.
Ahead by one point, all he needed to do — as if it were that simple — was ride out the remaining 90 seconds and he’d win. Anderson did that, but as soon as the final buzzer sounded, he noticed he couldn’t lift his arms. The muscle fibers in both were so drained that he nearly collapsed.
“For the picture afterward, they had to lift up my arms and then take the photo,” Anderson said. “That was the hardest match I’ve ever had.”
Now a senior at Gaithersburg High School — Anderson moved with his family from Bridgeport to Maryland before the school year — Anderson is hopeful that he’ll be able to pose for more pictures on the podium, and this time do so with fully functioning arms.
“I’m always wanting to get to the next level in wrestling or football,” Anderson said. “I love competition and wrestling is one of my favorite sports because it’s so personal. So much depends on how hard you work.”
Wrestling in the Midwest is different than it is here, Anderson said. In Illinois — and at Red Hill High School, where Anderson was one of many talented grapplers on the team and ranked third in the state for his weight class — the focus is on strength. In Maryland, Anderson observed, there’s a big emphasis on speed and technique.
“I’m still getting used to wrestling here,” he said. “It’s very different in training and during the match. The competition is so varied, so you have to adapt to any situation that’s put in front of you. But it’s nice getting to wrestle so many different people.”
Gaithersburg coach Eric Britton, whose team is 3-3 in dual meets this year, said he has been pleased with the effort he’s received from the senior transfer this season. Anderson played football for the Trojans as well and has quickly entrenched himself within the school’s culture. Even if it happens to be four times the size of Red Hill.
“It’s definitely very different,” Anderson said. “I came from a small school in southern Illinois to a huge school. It’s more diverse and way more cultural. It’s awesome that I can meet people from around the world and learn about their cultures.”
This year, through 26 matches, Anderson boasts a 24-2 record and is one of the better competitors in the county at the 182-pound weight class. His most recent match, however, was a loss that came against Fallston’s Austin Rutkowski in overtime at the Grapple at the Brook.
“He’s actually done a very good job of acclimating himself to the program,” Britton said. “He’s a good kid, works hard and does what he can to make the team better.
“As far as his technique goes, he kind of starts slow and progresses from there. It’s methodical. He looks for his chance and takes it.”
Anderson, an only child, stays in shape by putting in extra work in the wrestling room and running with his dog, Richard. And while he’s started to convert to a Washington Capitals fan, he remains an Indianapolis Colts fan among a sea of Baltimore Ravens supporters.
During his sophomore year of high school, Anderson tore his anterior cruciate ligament and missed a significant portion of the wrestling season. The injury forced him to stop playing baseball and running track, but he hasn’t slowed one bit on the gridiron or on the mat.
“I feel like in some ways I’m motivation to some wrestlers because it’s their first or second year,” Anderson said. “I want to help them get better and help them learn how to work on the mat.”
With Gaithersburg set to play host to the Montgomery County wrestling tournament this year, Anderson likely will be even more motivated to perform well on his home turf as the postseason draws nearer.