Wrestling notes - Blue Storm lighting up the mats

January 24, 2003|by ANDREW MASON

Mercersburg Academy has been on some sort of joy ride this season.

The No. 2 Blue Storm, 16-2 in dual meets, opened the season with a tournament title at St. James' Holloway Invitational and most recently won the prestigious Cadet Invitational at Valley Forge Military Academy.

In between, Mercersburg also captured first place at the Wilson Duals in Washington and placed third in the small-school division at the KSA National Duals Tournament in Orlando, Fla.

Obviously, the individual accolades have been rolling in as well. Thirteen of the Blue Storm's 14 starters have winning records, including nine with at least 20 victories.


"In terms of depth, we're a good dual-meet team and we have the quality to be a good tournament team," said 10th-year Mercersburg coach Rick Hendrickson. "The two best teams I've coached at Mercersburg were in 1998 (26-2) and 1999 (24-4), and this year's team ranks right in between them."

However, Hendrickson knows his squad could - or more like will - take some lumps this weekend when it begins Mid Atlantic Prep League competition in a quad meet Sunday at Blair Academy in New Jersey.

Sure, Lawrenceville and Hun should be tough opponents. But host Blair - which won team titles at the nationally renowned Beast of the East and Ironman tourneys this season - is the No. 1-ranked team in the country, according to USA Today, Amateur Wrestling News and Wrestling USA magazine.

"Blair beats everybody. They're ranked No. 1 by everybody. You name it, they're No. 1," said Hendrickson. "They have six kids ranked nationally in the top six in their weight classes.

"We're not just underdogs, we're supreme underdogs. Our goal is to go 2-1. We know what's going to happen against Blair. Our goal is to respect them and have them respect us, regardless of the matches."

One match vs. Blair he can't wait to see is at 189 pounds, where Mercersburg senior transfer Aaron Barnette will take on Matt Maciag. Barnette - who at 24-0 is the Blue Storm's only unbeaten wrestler - was a two-time state finalist at Independence (W.Va.) High, where he racked up 90 career wins. Meanwhile, Maciag is ranked fourth in the nation.

"I think Barnette can hang with him," said Hendrickson. "I don't know who's going to win, but I think it'll be a great match. Barnette's training to be with the best. He wants to wrestle at the Division I level, and this is how you do it."

Regardless of the weekend's results, Hendrickson is keeping aim on the future. His starting lineup includes four freshmen, four sophomores and two juniors, and his JV squad is 6-0.

"We have some young kids who have really come through for us," he said. "Obviously, we're very excited about the future."

The hottest area action this weekend is in the Eastern Panhandle.

Musselman High is set to host its second Virginia Brand Musselman Invitational on Saturday.

The 10-team field covers West Virginia, Maryland and Virginia - including Jefferson, Hedgesville and defending champ Clarke County (Va.).

"A lot of the teams I'm not real familiar with, which is good. It makes it a little more interesting. You want to see teams that you don't see all year," said Musselman coach Mark Cagle. "You get to see different levels and different styles that you're not familiar with. It prepares you for the regional tournament."

Action starts at 9 a.m., while the finals should begin between 6-7 p.m.

The Danny Lord countdown to 200 wins is down to 21.

The Hedgesville senior 152-pounder is 32-0 on the season and now 179-10 for his career.

Lord is the defending AAA state champ at 145.

After missing much of the season with a broken hand, Frederick freshman Mark Tsikerdanos has been on fire.

Last weekend, the Cadet 103-pounder pinned his way to the Springbrook tourney title and most outstanding wrestler honors - one week after pinning his way to the Hub Cup crown.

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