When Geoff Alexander accepted his wrestling scholarship to the University of Maryland in 2011 he told Terrapins coach Kerry McCoy that his first goal was to be a starter as a true freshman.
"Most freshmen redshirt, but I didn't want that," said Alexander, a graduate of Shady Side Academy. "I wanted to start right away. I went and proved myself and showed him that I could compete at this level."
Alexander reached that goal last season by starting at 133 pounds for the Terapins.
"Geoff has an insatiable desire to be the best," Maryland coach Kerry McCoy said. "He doesn't always wrestle up to his potential, but he's willing to do anything to reach his goals. That's what a coach likes to see in his wrestlers."
Alexander, a Fox Chapel resident, posted a 22-12 record as a freshman and qualified for the NCAA Division I Championship Tournament after placing second at the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.
"Wrestling at the national tournament was an incredible experience," said Alexander, referring to last year's site of St. Louis. "We got there two days early and the whole town was set up for the tournament. Our hotel even had [wrestling] mats so we could warm up."
And when he walked into the Scottrade Center, Alexander couldn't believe his eyes.
"The big screen had the match-ups for the first eight bouts," said Alexander, referring to the fact that each weight class has 33 entries, which requires one "pigtail" bout in each weight class. "It showed that my pigtail match was on Mat 2. It was up on the big screen until the tournament started. What a greeting that was."
Alexander made a quick exit after a pair of losses, but felt the experience would help him in future appearances.
"I didn't wrestle as well as I had hoped, but it was a great experience," Alexander said. "I feel more relaxed going into this year's tournament. I know what to expect and realize just how tough it is to step up to the next level and become an All-American."
Alexander will make a return trip to the NCAA tournament this weekend, as the 2013 tournament began this morning at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa.
"Geoff faced a couple tough opponents last year at the NCAA tournament," McCoy said. "The experience he gained in those bouts will help him prepare for this year's appearance."
Alexander (22-9) brings an almost identical record into this year's tournament, but didn't do as well at the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament, as he lost two matches in a row. He's also drawn a "pigtail" match again.
"What are the chances of drawing a pigtail match two years in a row?" Alexander pondered. "It's unfortunate, but there's nothing I can do about it. I'm expecting to see my name on the big screen when I walk into the arena."
Alexander is matched up with Cal-Poly's Devin Lotito (24-5) in his pigtail. The winner faces Wisconsin's Tyler Graf (28-4), the No. 3 seed, in the first round.
"I've made significant improvements since last season," Alexander said. "My head is more focussed, and I've taken on a leadership role. I'll take my first match and wrestle as hard as I can and hope to wrestle enough times to become an All-American."
Alexander was a four-year PIAA Class AA place-winner at Shady Side Academy. He also won four WPIAL titles.
Alexander's brother Justin, a senior at Central Catholic, will join him at Maryland next year. Justin Alexander fell one win short of a PIAA Class AAA berth this season after placing fourth at the WPIAL tournament at 138.
"I couldn't make it to the WPIAL tournament [to see my brother wrestle]," Geoff Alexander said. "He fell one win short of qualifying. I was listening to his last match on the radio, yelling and screaming. I was just as bummed out as he was, but I'm glad he's coming to Maryland."
First Published March 21, 2013 4:00 AM