Fort Hill HS Wrestling: State Champions

189lb Class - Dave Phillips(1990)

98lbs - Paul Thomas (1986)

155lbs - Butch Haller(1981)

Times Staff Writer

When Fort Hill High's Butch Haller was getting ready to wrestle in the Maryland State Tournament somebody told him that the key to winning was "wanting it more and getting physical with those guys."

Haller remembered that advice when he was trailing favored Rob Fitzgerald of James M. Benett High 3-4 with about one minute left in the state semifinals. He then took control and won 7-4 to gain the finals.

The Fort Hill senior then became only the second Allegany County grappler to bring home a state championship when he scored a 5-3, decision over Mike Schekletski of Sherwood High in the 155-pound class finals on the Howard County High School mats in Ellicott City.

"In the semi-finals I told myself it was a case of who wanted it badly," recalls Haller. "I figured this was my senior year and I didn't want four years to go to waste. I wanted it more than he did. I know I never thought when I started wrestling back in the seventh grade that I'd make state champion."

The only other county wrestler to win a state title was Haller's former teammate Howard Blank who took the 155-pound class last year to finish with a perfect 22-0 record.

Haller earned a spot in the State Tournament by finishing second in the Region I Class B-C Tournament where he lost to Scott Myer of Francis Scott Key. Myer was eliminated in the first round of the state event. Haller opened his bid for the state title by pinning Greg Zsebdics of Bel Air on 3:34.

"Butch Haller is an aggressive, physical wrestler and he takes the match to his opponent," notes Coach Steve Lewis, who guided the Sentinels yo a second place team finnish in the State Tournament. "He hit his peak at just the right time. That was the best he wrestled. We expected him to place this year and weren't really surprised at him winning. He's a very good all-round athlete with good coordination and quickness."

Butch finnished his senior year with a 24-4 overall record. He was a winner in the CVAL Tournament, the FH Invitational, and the Bi-County and runner-up in the FH Christmas Tournament. He was also a factor in the Sentinels being unbeaten in 11 dual matches.

Haller notes that one of the biggest highlights along with winning the state tournament was beating Rich Duncan of arch-rival Beall twice to avenge an earlier defeat. He points out that the Beall-FH wrestling matches the past four years have been like the Sentinels playing Allegany in the Homecoming football game. The Sentinels have beaten the Mountaineers four straight matches the past two years with the WMIL League title on the line.

Other highlights include a win in the FH Invitational of Lock Coles and ANC Academy of Philadelphia, who was ranked nationally the previous year. He also set a school record with a 15-second pin over a Berlin(PA) wrestler in the Christmas Tournament.

A four year varsity performer, Haller had a 20-4 record in the 145-pound class as a junior when he lost in the State Tournament quarter-finals after winning the Bi-county and Region I titles. He was 7-9 as a sophomore and 4-11 as a freshman.

"I really didn't know what wrestling was all about until I came to FH," says Haller. "I found out it can be really interesting after learning some of the moves and other things from Coach Lewis. It's a fun sport, but you have to enjoy it if you're going to get anything out of it."

Haller gives Coach Lewis and his teammates a lot of the credit for his success.

"Coach Lewis had a lot to do with it," explains the state champion. "He taught us how to wrestle but he really didn't put a lot of pressure on us. He just wanted us to do our best. The closeness of the team also helped. We are a big family. We knew when we could carry on and when we were supposed to get serious. I thought we would have a few state champions."

"Wrestling is not like any other sport," adds Haller. "It's one-on-one and if you make a mistake it can cost you the match. Football is more of a team thing and you have 10 guys to back you up."

Haller says he would like to continue wrestling and would consider accepting a wrestling scholarship if one is offered. But as of now he is planning on continuing his athletic career in another sport and hopes to be playing football in the fall at Glenville(W.VA.) State College.

FH football coach Jim Chaney felt Haller developed into one of the top pass receivers in the area after being moved from halfback to slotback this past season.

A second-team Times-News All-Area selection, Haller caught 15 passes for 161 yards. He also rushed for 524 yards on 100 carries. As a defensive back he was third on the team in tackles with 88. Glenville plans to test him as both a wide receiver and defensive back.

Haller is also a member of the FH Track team and competes in the 330-yard and 120-yard hurdles and the pole vault. He qualified for the State Meet in both the pole vault and the 330-yard hurdles last year but was unable to compete.

Butch was also on the academic honor roll the last marking period.

155lb Class - Howard Blank(1980)