Growing up, Justin Alexander’s dad slapped him on the back and told him to give 110 percent effort before stepping onto the mat.
“Win or lose,” Alexander said, “as long as I gave 110 percent out there he was happy.”
From then on, whether in practice or matches, Alexander said his motto was to put all his effort on the mat every day.
The 157-pounder showed that tenacity in Maryland’s doubleheader against Rider and Ohio on Sunday in his last dual meet as a Terp.
Alexander’s first match against Rider’s B.J. Clagon was neck and neck. Alexander trailed by two points in the first period after a takedown, but he rallied with two escapes in the first and second periods to tie. After a series of back and forth takedowns, the match was tied with seconds left in the third period. The senior lost the match, as Clagon gained an extra point from a riding advantage.
Alexander lost to the same opponent last year by one point, but he didn’t allow Sunday’s defeat to deter him.
“I talked to my brother, I shook it off,” Alexander said, “and I just got fired up for the next one.”
After a ceremony celebrating his accomplishments at Maryland, along with the other graduating wrestlers — Jhared Simmons, Patrick Gerish and Matt Pente — Alexander was ready to face his next opponent.
The Pittsburgh native came out with an early takedown against Ohio’s Cullen Cummings. He pinned his opponent shortly after in the first period for a sudden victory, putting the Terps up, 18-11.
The Maryland bench jumped up out of their seats to cheer on Alexander. With a smile on his face, Alexander raised his hands in the air to encourage the fans at the Xfinity Pavilion to get louder.
Alexander said the crowd’s energy helped him and Gerish earn victories by pin.
This season has been tough for Alexander, as he hasn’t earned a win in the four dual meets he competed in prior to Sunday, making his last performance as a Terp even more memorable.
“Getting that last pin just [meant] the world to me,” Alexander said. “It’s been a long journey, a long five years.”
The first thing coach Kerry McCoy addressed in his post-meet remarks was his elation with Alexander’s performance, along with his fellow seniors.
“For Justin and Pat to get pins in their last college matches, it’s pretty impressive,” McCoy said. “It’s a good way to send the seniors off.”