Former Pine-Richland wrestlers easing into college competition while redshirting at Maryland
Around this time last year, Hunter Baxter and Garrett Burnham combined to create a formidable one-two punch for the Pine-Richland wrestling team.
This season, the pair of former Rams redshirted as freshmen, working their way up the ladder as they improve in their first year for Maryland (4-10, 0-8).
It's a humbling process, one fellow Terps wrestler Brendan Burnham, Garrett's older brother, knows well. Brendan, a sophomore, spent last year redshirting as he recovered from shoulder surgery. He has a 10-14 record this season as Maryland's top 165-pounder.
With his fellow Pine-Richland alumni going through a similar process, Brendan is happy to help usher them through the experience.
“Last year, I was able to get even more experience wrestling guys outside of the Big Ten,” he said. “It's really just wrestling, and especially for the freshmen, the redshirt year is pretty important.
“It kind of lets you get the whole feel for the collegiate style of wrestling. For them, it's a big deal to get in there and take it seriously and get better. They already found out that they belong here, and they can kind of build off of that to get better for the whole year.”
While Baxter and Garrett Burnham cannot participate in Big Ten matches this season, they can travel to compete in open tournaments. In their most recent tournament Feb. 3 at Messiah, the pair displayed their progress by securing top-five finishes.
Baxter was fourth at 141 pounds, bringing his record to 15-13, and Burnham placed fifth at 149 pounds to put his record at 13-11. The results were positive, but their desire to be better is always present.
“I would say I definitely should've done better in the tournament,” Garrett said. “I was in the semis, and I gave up a quick four points, so I had to fight back to get it into overtime but I wasn't able to pull it out in the end.
“It was a good tournament for us. We could've done better, but placing at a collegiate open is definitely a big deal.”
In the ultra-competitive Big Ten, which features the top two programs in the nation in Penn State and Ohio State, Baxter said all three of them know constant improvement must be the status quo.
“Just being in college — it sounds cliche — but everything has to be a little bit stronger, a little bit tighter, a little bit quicker,” Baxter said. “There's always certain little positions to work on.
“You go to an open and figure out that you can't get out of this move, so you work on it and learn how to get out of it just in time to figure out that now you can't get out of a different move. It's just nice to wrestle with kids that have been there for a few years and get your head pounded in and you realize, ‘OK, I'm not as good at something as I thought I was.' You just start working on different categories until you get better.”
Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.