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Elijah has ice in his veins

Elijah and Latra Collick have found a balance in terms of the father-son relationship in wrestling, this, even as Latra was a Division II college sophomore when he says his son "was practically born into the sport."

"I guided Elijah, but I’ve never forced him to do anything," said Latra Collick, 35. "If Elijah quit tomorrow, I would love him the same. Elijah wrestles only because he wants to."

Elijah's accomplishments as a once-beaten, 126-pound sophomore defending Class 2A-1A state champion for Latra's alma mater, Stephen Decatur, have already surpassed his patriarch and may yet out-do any wrestler in the program's history.

Elijah joined two-time champion Noah Reho as only the second Seahawks' freshman by earning last year's 106-pound title, and he can surpass three-time champion Danny Miller by becoming the program's first four-time state champion.

With 53 career wins, Elijah is on pace to surpass three-time state finalist Jagger Clapsadle (158 wins), state champion Nico D'Amico (153), four-time place-winner Andy McKahan (147), Reho (140) and Miller (139) on the Seahawks' list of all-time victories leaders.

"Winning four state titles would be a good accomplishment, but I need to focus on what’s in front of me now and get better, so I have a clear chance of becoming a four-timer. But I also want bigger things than just a state championship," said Elijah Collick, 15.

"I want to put my name out there with bigger tournaments. There are always the kids who practice all summer and give me a run for my money. My dad has played a big part in my accomplishments. In terms of my legacy, I want to beat everything my dad has accomplished, but he's taught me most of what I know."

Elijah Collick was officially the first state champion for second-year coach Josh August, who also guided graduated senior Logan Intrieri to a crown at 132 pounds and returning fourth-ranked senior Gavin Solito (165) to a repeat state runner-up finish.

"Elijah's a special wrestler who has ice in his veins. Elijah would weigh 106 and compete at 113 and win major decisions over state place-winners," said August, 41, a Stephen Decatur graduate. "I remember hearing Elijah say halfway through last year that 'If my team needs a pin or a technical fall, it's not about me and my record, it's about what I can do for the team.'"

Collick and Solito were critical last season as the eighth-ranked Bayside Conference champion Seahawks (13-1) won their fourth straight of five state dual tournament crowns, the first being in 2008 under the late Kevin Gilligan, who coached from 2001 through 2011.

The 2A champion Seahawks will be among 16 teams entering the January 5-6 Iron Horse Duals hosted by C. Milton Wright Mustangs featuring 18th-ranked Class 1A state dual champion South Carroll, 19th-ranked Class 4A title winner South River, third-ranked Archbishop Spalding, sixth-ranked Loyola and ninth-ranked Sparrows Point.

"Of the 16 teams, 11 are ranked in Maryland [by Legacy Wrestling] and two are ranked in Delaware," said seventh-year C. Milton Wright coach John Thornton, a 6-foot-2 former state champion who went 37-0 in 1999 as a C. Milton Wright senior. "Last year South Carroll beat Loyola in the finals and Sparrows Point beat Stephen Decatur for third. Individually there are 57 wrestlers ranked in [Legacy Wrestling's] top 20 rankings, including six No. 1-ranked guys and five individuals ranked in Delaware."

Todd Martinek assisted Gilligan from 2002 to 2003, was head coach from 2012 to 2022, and was assisted by August from 2016 until last season.

"Elijah's slick and fast on his feet. He also has an A-average with very good grades," said Martinek, a state champion at Bel Air in 1989. "Elijah's well aware of his father's accomplishments, but I would love to see Elijah win four individual titles because nobody (at Decatur) has ever done that."

Elijah went 42-2 last year, his lone defeats being against junior Raekwon Shabazz of Connecticut's Xavier High in the finals of the War On The Shore and Bullis sophomore Ellis Kirsch in the finals of the Damascus Tournament.

"I lost because I wasn't aggressive and didn't create angles," Elijah Collick said. "I shot straight ahead, and my stamina wasn't the best."

But Collick had it together for states last year, pinning his first-round and quarterfinal opponents in 67 seconds, and 2:30. Collick blanked his semifinal rival, 10-0, before winning his title bout, 5-3, over South Carroll's Grayson Barnhill, who is now a sophomore ranked fourth at 113-pounds by Legacy Wrestling.

"I pinned or teched most of the guys I wrestled at counties and regions," Elijah Collick said. "Altogether, I think 30 of my wins were pins or technical falls with a number of major decisions also."

Collick is 11-1 this year at 126 pounds, with his lone setback coming by 4-2 decision to Northern-Garrett senior Nate Wilhelm. A year ago, Wilhelm finished third at states behind Collick after Barnhill pinned him in 76 seconds of their semifinal bout.

"I lost to a kid good at riding legs, but I’ve been practicing how to get out ever since. Everyone will want to beat me, and anyone could," said Collick, who will drop into the 120-pound class for the Iron Horse Duals. "I just need to score and make them regret thinking that they can. I'm good at every position when I'm on the mat, but my coaches are always finding flaws, so I can always improve."

Elijah's state tournament experiences were different from those of Latra, whose experiences there include a 5-4 quarterfinal loss to eventual four-time state champion Josh Asper of Hereford as a junior, and a 3-2 state championship loss to three-time state champion Vince Taweel of Hammond as a senior.

Latra was 32-0 as a junior before losing, 5-4, to Asper, a freshman regional runner-up who went on to hammer previously unbeaten eventual third-place finishing senior, Jeffers Frazier of Calvert, 13-4, in the semifinals before winning his title bout, 6-2, over Walkersville senior Chad Cotterman, a repeat runner-up who slipped to 32-2.

Latra won twice before losing, 4-2, to Owings Mills senior Ryan Nash, and winning his fifth-place bout by 86-second pin. Frazier was 34-0 entering his bout with Asper and won his third-place bout, 2-1, over Nash, who had beaten Asper in the Baltimore County and regional finals.

"With about 20 seconds left against Asper I was up, 4-3. I was riding him on top and threw in the legs a couple of times for stalemates and was trying to milk the rest of the time off the clock," said Latra Collick of Asper, winner of his second, third and fourth state titles in 2006, 2007 and 2008. "But with about five seconds left, he caught my leg coming over. I fell off and he got two. I was able to get to my feet and to stand up, but he stayed down hanging on to my leg and I couldn't break his grip for an escape. I had to just stand there and watch as time expired."

Latra reached the state finals as a senior in 2006 only to fall against Taweel, then a junior.

"Where a lot of wrestlers maneuver around to avoid certain guys, I had to wrestle whoever the best was because I believed I was the best myself, so that’s why there were matches with Josh Asper and Vince Taweel," Latra Collick said. "During my high school years, I trained hard but the biggest thing is my coaches pushed me to believe in myself and the work I put in."

Latra wrestled four years at Newberry College in Newberry, South Carolina, where he was a four-time regional finalist and four-time national qualifier before graduating in 2011.

"I started all four years and was a four-time division II qualifier, ranked as high as fourth in that nation but I never achieved All-American Status. College was more like a job,” said Latra Collick, a subcontractor and home building manager for NB Contractors in South Carolina. "It's there where you really learn if you’re passionate about wrestling or not. Practice partners were high school state champs and guys ranked in the country. The level of training increases dramatically. You earn your spot, and you push to hold down that spot."

Elijah began wrestling as a 6-year-old, and, later, winning a pair of state junior league state titles before entering high school. But Latra has been there throughout his son's career, assisting his child with maintaining a healthy perspective on their father-son relationship regarding the sport they love.

"Our motivation as father and son comes from our strong bond. I'm always telling Elijah that I’m his father, Latra Collick, and that my career has come and gone. I tell him that he is my son, Elijah Collick. I've told him things I’m proud of and things that I felt I could have changed as a wrestler," Latra Collick said.

"I tell him that my legacy may be there, but that this is Elijah's story and his own legacy to create. I tell Elijah these stories, but then I ask him what his goals are both short term and long term. Elijah can work hard and push to be the greatest he can be, and I will have his back no matter what."

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