David Schultz’s introduction to wrestling was straight out of a bad dream.
After preparing extensively for the occasion, Schultz trotted onto the mat for the first match of his life as a 95-pound 7-year-old. Thirty seconds later, he was 0-1 after getting pinned.
The experience was traumatizing enough that Schultz, now a sophomore at Linganore High, quit the sport.
“I was like, ‘I don’t want to do this if this is how it’s going to be for me,’” he said. “I cried and broke down.”
However, roughly a year later, Schultz was back on the mat. Some persuasive coaches had finally convinced him that he had potential. He won his second match by pinning his opponent, and that result helped plant the seed of belief inside of Schultz that is in full bloom today.
Schultz enters this weekend’s Frederick County Public School’s wrestling championships at Oakdale High School as one of the most experienced wrestlers in the field, despite his age (15).
He’s spent the last seven years of his life wrestling on mats all over the country. That’s laid a solid foundation that has made him the clear favorite to win the county title at 182 pounds this weekend and a serious contender to become Linganore’s first state champion since George O’Brien (189 pounds) in 1998.
Wrestling in a heavier weight class against opponents who are generally older than him, Schultz is 30-0 this season after placing fourth in the state at 170 (4A-3A) last season.
He is presently ranked No. 5 in the state at 182 by the Maryland State Wrestling Association but is ranked No. 2 in 4A-3A behind Northern Calvert’s Jackson Drum.
“I know who he is,” said Schultz, the nephew of two former state champions. “It’s not a surprise or anything. And he knows who I am. We met last year [at states] in the weigh-in line.”
Schultz is 64-4 in two seasons of wrestling for Linganore. All four of his losses last year came to kids who placed in the top three of their weight class at states, including a Virginia state champion.
In the 4A-3A bracket at 170 last season, there were 11 seniors, four juniors and Schultz, a freshman.
In the state semifinals, Schultz had an early lead on eventual champion Paul Kalafos of Severna Park before being caught by a move and falling 10-5.
Having to shove aside his disappointment and come back to wrestle a third-place match, one of the toughest things to do in the sport, Schultz was pinned by Drum, his potential nemesis this season, in 1 minute, 42 seconds.
The high school losses stung more than any other losses in his career because Schultz was representing his school and not just himself.
When he walked into Cole Field House last season for the state tournament, he thought, “This is kind of overwhelming.”
“Seeing all of the security guards and people flipping out because their kids lost and how big of a deal one match was,” Schultz continued, “I would lose a match in a big tournament, and it would be like a sportsmanship thing. Like, ‘Hey, good match.’ But not at states.”
Schultz said he, himself, has mellowed out this season and not let little things outside of his control — such as the officiating or an opponent’s style — bother him so much.
“I always remind him to stay cool and stay calm. Don’t worry about all of that other stuff,” Pete Riley, Linganore’s first-year wrestling coach, said. “I say, ‘I am more proud of you for the patience than the pins.’ The pin is just a result. The patience is maturity. That’s what you have to rely on.”
Wrestling older and heavier kids actually works to Schultz’s advantage, Riley said, “because he so naturally strong and quick.”
“Most of the kids at the heavier weight classes, they tend to be slower. They don’t shoot in [on the legs] quite as much,” Riley said. “David can match their strength, and, because he is so quick, is able to wrestle like a lightweight.”
His years of experience also pay huge dividends.
“When kids first start wrestling, they have to think a lot about what they are going to do,” Riley said. “Since David has wrestled for so long, he doesn’t have to think quite as much. He can just go out there naturally and put his body in the right positions. He won’t make a lot of mistakes or put himself in a bad position.”
Schultz always wrestles at his natural weight (around 175 this season). If he winds up giving up a few pounds to his opponent, so be it.
“I think cutting weight gives wrestlers a sense of uncomfortableness, and it doesn’t make them perform to the best of their abilities,” he said.
He stays sharp year-round by taking advantage of any open mat he can find and, in the process, building relationships with other good wrestlers.
This season, 26 of his 30 victories have come via a pin.
“I get told all the time, ‘We love to watch you wrestle,’” Schultz said. “It really makes me happy. That means I am making somebody else enjoy wrestling. People are like, ‘Oh yeah, let’s go watch that wrestling match.’ You don’t hear that a lot.”