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VAIHINGEN, Germany — Patch High School sophomore Joe Morrow doesn’t know whether he’ll be part of a championship in a third sport this school year, but he’s going to enjoy trying.

“I’m not the greatest soccer player in the world,” said Morrow, who’s devoting his talent and energy toward learning to play defensive midfield for the Patch soccer team. Morrow already has won European titles in tennis and wrestling. “I’m just out there to have fun.”

And to get a handle on what is to him a relatively new game. Morrow’s in his second season with the soccer team.

“Joe is concerned about learning the game of soccer,” Patch coach Todd Taylor said last week as the Panthers were approaching spring break. “Currently his lack of soccer skills is made up by his intelligence on the field. He usually knows where the ball is going and how to be in the place the team needs him.”

In other words, Morrow is relatively formidable for a relative novice.

If tennis is any guide, he’ll master soccer pretty quickly. Morrow and partner Chris Smyser won the European doubles title, even though Morrow had just taken up the game the previous year. And tennis was his second choice among fall sports.

“Last year I did cross-country,” Morrow said, “and I discovered it wasn’t for me. Tennis is much more fun. I think now I’ve found the sports I’m good at.”

Morrow and Smyser lost just one set in three matches on their way to the title.

“I’m good at coordinating things on the court,” Morrow said.

Patch tennis coach Walter Fritz saw other reasons.

“The kid’s just gifted,” Fritz said. “He’s smart — he makes the right shot at the right time. He has great eye-hand coordination and tenacity. He’s focused. He works on something until he gets it.”

The effort’s not wasted because Morrow focuses on learing the right way.

“He listens,” Fritz said. “He has an open mind. He understands what you’re telling him and applies it.”

Morrow, who took up wrestling as a seventh-grader, certainly applied things on the mat, teaming with wrestling-room buddy and training partner Josh Anderson to give the Panthers back-to-back European titles at 119 and 125 pounds, respectively, in February.

Morrow was 21-0 during the regular season, then blitzed his way through the European tournament with a pair of falls, in a combined time of 1:47, followed by a 16-1 technical fall over teammate Chris Vucich in the semifinals and a 15-6 major decision over Ramstein’s Noah Sheppard in the championship match.

“I have an awesome coach [volunteer Matt Konigsfelder],” Morrow said. “and working with Josh makes it even better.”

Characteristically, the championship pair will continue to try to get better — by working hard.

“I’m going to a wrestling camp in Florida with Josh in June,” Morrow said. “We’ll get a chance to see where we stand.”

After that, Morrow said, he’s planning to apply himself to becoming a better tennis player.

“My partner’s coming back, and everyone will be out to beat us,” Morrow said. “I need to improve my tennis. I’m going to work on some basic stuff.”

In the meantime, there’s soccer, the only true team sport on Morrow’s schedule.

“I generally like individual sports better,” Morrow said. “If something goes wrong, there’s no one to blame but yourself.”

That doesn’t mean that he can’t play nicely with others.

“Tennis and wrestling are mostly individual sports, but Joe, by no means, plays soccer as an individual,” Taylor said. “He is definitely a team player.”

The Panthers dropped their opener, 2-1 at Mannheim on March 29. Though the Bison are one of the pre-season favorites in Division II, the loss rankled.

“We didn’t play as well as we should have,” Morrow said. “We’ve got a lot of new players and we have to learn how to play with each other.”

Morrow gives them a good chance to do so — quickly.

“I have met very few kids who are as coachable [as Morrow],” Taylor said. “During drills I cannot recall a time when I have had to ask Joe to hustle. I have no doubt that he soon will be a force for Patch.”

Just like he has been all year.


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