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Mardela's Newman has a "phenomenal power-half"

For Mardela’s Justin Newnam, there are challenges being a 215-pound sophomore going against older, more physically mature wrestlers.

“At this weight there is sometimes a strength gap between me and people who are juniors and seniors,” Newnam said. “So, during the offseason, I’m planning to get a gym membership, slim up a little bit, and lift some weights.”

Newnam doesn't mention being born without a right hand on an arm which narrows to his wrist as a result of amniotic band syndrome.

Also known as constriction ring syndrome, the condition happens when fibrous bands of the amniotic sac -- the lining inside the uterus that contains a fetus -- become tangled around a developing fetus. In rare cases, the bands wrap around the fetus' head or umbilical cord.

“I was born missing my right hand due to amniotic band syndrome,” Newnam said. “It’s where one of the amniotic bands wraps around the undeveloped limb and causes it to not fully develop.”

Yet Newnam remains active if not altruistic, having volunteered for events with the Boy Scouts Of America and worked at a yearly crab feast fundraising event.

“What I do comes naturally because I’ve lived with it so long,” Newnam said. “In wrestling, I just take whatever coach Johnson shows us and adapt to it. If I can’t figure it out, I just ask our coaches for assistance.”

Newnam’s opponents are sometimes at a loss at how to prepare for him.

“I think there have been times where opponents are confused about what to do. Like when I lock up with my opponent, a lot of times it throws them off,” Newnam said. “Typically, you’ll lock up with the right arm on the back of their neck, but because of me only having the left hand, it can force them into a weirder position that they’re not always comfortable with.”

Newnam has “a phenomenal power-half Nelson,” Johnson said. “Justin cranks down on that pretty hard. Once he puts that on them, they normally go right over.” Newnam goes farther. “I get a lot more leverage on my power-half. Normally, if you’re on the bottom and you’re in a spot like that, you’re inclined to reach back and peel it off. With my arm, it’s a lot more awkward and difficult to do that because I have an area almost up to my elbow on the back of their neck,” Newnam said. “So that works really well with me because of where my arm cuts off halfway below my forearm. Because of that, it helps me to crank down on the back of their neck a lot better than it does for the average person.”

Newnam won three matches as a freshman but is 7-6 with three pins on the varsity with an overall record of 19-18 that includes junior varsity matches. Newnam has placed third once and fourth twice at tournaments this season.

“My improvement over the last nearly two years is a nice accomplishment,” Newnam said. “To have had a total of three wins last year and to turn that around and have 19, that feels really good.”

A 1988 Mardela graduate who was a conference and regional runner-up and fourth at states, Johnson was 19-0 as a high school wrestler before suffering his first loss. In his 24th-year as a head coach, Johnson has 205 career victories.

But Johnson won two matches as a first-year sophomore, with one of the victories coming by forfeit.

“Wrestling is a tough sport. I took some lumps. I always tell Justin that I was just like him as a first-year wrestler,” said Johnson, 53. “Whether or not you get your hand raised, you’re a winner simply by stepping out there. That’s something a lot of people aren’t willing to do or have the heart to do.”

Newnam was in the lineup on Thursday when the Warriors (11-10) lost in the Class 1A East Regional Dual semifinals to Colonel Richardson. The Colonels lost to Harford Tech in the finals.

“Justin uses the fireman’s carry, the front headlocks, the high-crotch takedowns – he hits all of the same moves that his teammates do,” said Johnson, whose two senior wrestlers are 106-pounders. “Justin not only has willpower, but also an incredible amount of heart. Justin’s really stepped up into that varsity spot, and he’s already talking about working out in the offseason. I’m extremely proud of Justin.”

Not only did Newnam win a wrestle-off for the varsity position, but he later defeated an opponent that the former starter had lost to.

“Justin had originally been inserted on varsity when our starter was out sick, so that’s when we put Justin into the varsity position,” Johnson said. “Two weeks ago, Justin won the wrestle-off for the starting spot. Then, after that, Justin pinned a wrestler from Snow Hill who had pinned that former starter.”

Newnam won four of five matches in his first varsity start in a tournament last month at Nandua High School in Olney, Virginia.

“I need to get a lot stronger,” Newnam said. “I know that there are a number of matches I lost merely because of the difference in strength.” Newnam has a message for those who view him as being at a disadvantage. “I’ve thought of a couple of moves that I can develop as a result of my opponents being thrown off. I’ve beaten people in the past who I thought were a lot stronger than me,” Newnam said. “I’ve done that wrestling with only one hand. So, if I could do it in the past, I know that I can do that in the present and continue to improve and do that even more in the future.”

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