More pressure is on at state wrestling meet

March 07, 2003|by ANDREW MASON

There are a few new twists and turns to this weekend's Maryland State Wrestling Tournament at McDaniel College in Westminster - but certainly not as many as the 29 area grapplers in the tourney used to advance this far.

Staying alive from this point on, however, will be a more difficult task this year in each of the 16-man brackets.

A mistake in the preliminary rounds - which begin today at 2:30 p.m. for both Class 2A-1A and 4A-3A - and the season is finished. The state's done away with the follow-the-winner, double-elimination format from past years' opening rounds.


"Basically, it comes down to one match," said South Hagerstown coach Brian Brake, who has four wrestlers competing in the 2A-1A brackets. "That's a lot of pressure."

"I don't like it," said Williamsport coach Chuck Martin, who also has four wrestlers in the 2A-1A mix. "A lot of good wrestlers lose in the first round, and a lot of those kids in the past have come back to place."

But a first-round win still ensures at least two more bouts. And at least two more matches should be in the forecast for Martin's athletes.

"You can't overlook anybody or take anyone lightly," Martin said. "But our four kids are all No. 1 seeds and they're all facing No. 4 seeds, so if they lose, something went wrong."

Wildcats Mike McGill (112 pounds), Brian Forsythe (119), Corey Leggett (135) and Devin Hewitt (145) all won West region titles last weekend. Forsythe is still undefeated on the season; once-beaten McGill, who took third at 103 last year, is Washington County's highest returning place-winner and Leggett is a four-time qualifier and two-time place-winner.

* South Hagerstown senior Clayton Swisher, the 215 West champ, may benefit the most from the tourney's most obvious change - the addition of the 215 weight class.

Swisher, who's topped the state rankings for nearly the entire season, went 0-1 at states last year at 275 - a class where he was obviously conceding several pounds.

"He might be the first state champion in the state of Maryland at 215," said Brake. "He's why this weight class is there. He's finally at a weight class where strength and optimal weight are coinciding, much like the lower weight classes.

"It opens the door for a lot of athletes who are in that range and don't want to wrestle kids who are 260 pounds. They can compete against people their own size."

* Walkersville, fresh off its Class 2A-1A West team title, should have little trouble turning in a better performance than last year's three-point, 49th-place finish.

The Lions have eight wrestlers competing, including region champs Chad Cotterman (125), Ed Asbill (130), Dan Caywood (140), Brad Nielson (160) and Jason Stambaugh (275).

"We'll keep going," said Walkersville coach Bryan Biehl. "You can't keep a good team down."

* North Hagerstown's Mike Wagner (125) and Catoctin's Derek Fogle (189) will also probably be looking for a little redemption following their second-place region finishes last weekend. Both were top seeds and both narrowly fell by decision in the finals.

Wagner went 1-1 in last year's state tourney at 112, while Fogle took third at 189.

* Frederick's Mark Tsikerdanos (103) and Thomas Johnson's Mark Esmont (189) have stormed their way into the 4A-3A field, both convincingly winning West region titles last weekend.

Tsikerdanos, a freshman, used a tech fall and a pair of pins to wrap up his crown and keep his career mark unblemished. Meanwhile, Esmont barely broke a sweat, nailing down three straight pins, each in less than a minute.

* Another change this year is that the championship finals will be showcased, rather than being lumped together with the third- and fifth-place bouts.

The finals for both classes with run simultaneously on two mats, beginning at 6 p.m. Saturday.

The trick now is getting there.

"The opportunity is there," said Martin. "We'll see what happens. We've prepared them all we can. The rest is up to them."

JB's Witmer bows out of PIAA tourney

James Buchanan 125-pounder Chad Witmer dropped his first two bouts at the PIAA Class AA state championships on Thursday at Hersheypark and was eliminated from the tournament.

The Rockets junior lost by tech fall (21-6, 5:25) to Slippery Rock's Jeff Becker in the preliminaries and by major decision (12-4) to Lake Lehman's Andy Josuweit in the first-round consolations.

Witmer earned JB's first state berth since 1995 by placing fifth at the Southeast Regional Tournament last weekend. He was the area's only wrestler to advance.

Witmer was also recently named to the Mid-Penn Conference Capital Division first-team all-stars, while JB's Erik Corl made the second team at 189.

Waynesboro's Nathan Geesaman (130), Brian Lisko (140) and Chambersburg's Bryan Crist (215) were named Colonial Division first-team all-stars.

Panhandlers leave lasting impressions

There was seemingly enough local drama at last weekend's West Virginia state championships to fill an entire sports page.

For now, a quick rehashing will have to suffice.

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