This Maryland high school player profiles series is presented by the U.S. Army.
By Justin Hoagland, CountySportsZone.com
Matt Haines’ wrestling season was put on hold because of an illness, but he found his way back to the mat when all thought his senior season was over due to resilience and determination.
Haines, 18, is a native of Perry Hall, Md., and a senior at Eastern Technical High School in Essex, Md.
Haines was a four-year wrestler with three of those four years on varsity. Haines also played badminton and tennis all four years. He was voted captain of his wrestling team his junior and senior year by his teammates and coaches.
“It was a great honor because all the other captains were seniors and he only saw one prior [captain] that wasn’t a senior,” Haines said.
Haines went 30-0 during the regular season of his senior year.
“I took one match at a time and I kept working on getting a couple tourney wins and match wins,” Haines said. “Then you realize that no one had beaten me and it was weird. It’s amazing to think that I could do this.”
Kevin Cross, the head coach of Eastern Tech’s wrestling team for the past 10 years, praised Haines’ work ethic.
“Matt was interested in learning and eager to grasp what we were doing,” Cross said. “Never resistant to change or development and as he progressed you could see the hunger building. By the time he was a 10th grader, he was sold and started to dedicate himself more and more.”
In early February, right before the playoffs, Haines learned that he had contracted mononucleosis, an infectious disease usually caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. It can affect your daily routine, leaving you unable to take part in normal daily activities for several weeks.
Haines’ daily routine was wrestling. He was told that he’d be out for at least six weeks, which would sideline him for the district tournament.
“I knew I would miss it, which was heartbreaking,” Haines said. “Close to 100 wins. I was at 95 wins. I had to set sights on health and future tournaments.”
Haines kept seeing medical professionals and his trainer every day, and against all odds returned to the mats right before the state qualifier. Although Haines went into the tournament not as conditioned as he would have liked, he ended up placing third and qualifying for states.
When describing what it was like to see Haines qualify for states after all he went through, Dorrian Jackson, fellow captain and former teammate of Haines said, “He is a real leader and a real hard worker.”
The state wrestling tournament is a two-day event. On the first day everyone gets two matches. Haines won his first match of the day and lost his second match — but was feeling better throughout the day. On the second day Haines faced an opponent he was familiar with in the consolation bracket and won the match, earning his 100th career win. In the blood round, Haines lost to a former state finalist who went on to place sixth overall.
Rob Sullivan has been on the staff at Eastern Tech for eight years and is very close with Haines. He was very excited for his wrestler’s 100th victory.
“It was cool to see that especially a kid who started on JV so he only had three years and I know it meant a lot to him,” Sullivan said. “As his coach I was super proud, and I was the one to run over and tell the announcer because I didn’t want them to miss this moment.”
Haines’ mother, Stacey Haines, was thrilled for her son regarding his accomplishment.
“I had watched him get beat in the beginning to watch him win,” Stacey said. “To watch him persevere and watch how he handled the whole thing because I wanted to let him handle the decisions and he handled it like a champ.”
When asked about his time at Eastern Tech and wrestling career, Haines was reflective.
“Wrestling has taught me to be disciplined to persevere,” Haines said. “Taught a lot of responsibilities and matured me as a person and taught me to push for my goals and if I don’t achieve [them], you have to accept it. I will carry these experiences with me for the rest of my life and I would do it all over again and recommend it to anyone.”
Haines plans to attend the Community College of Baltimore County Essex. Although Haines is not wrestling in college, he hopes to coach in the sport one day.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Matt Haines