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St. Benedict's overpowers field at Leopard

December 28, 2003|by ANDREW MASON

andrewm@herald-mail.com

SMITHSBURG - There was nothing taken lightly about the Smithsburg wrestling team's third-place finish at its 15th annual Leopard Holiday Invitational on Saturday.

The heavyweights of St. Benedict's, of Newark, N.J., made sure of that, winning four straight head-to-head bouts - from 171 to 275 pounds - against Smithsburg to cap their team's runaway victory.

"It was kind of nerve-racking, because we're their guests and you hate to do that to them in their gym," St. Benedict's coach Mike DiPiano said. "We're just happy they invited us down. It was nice to see a different part of the country and get some Maryland competition. It was a first-rate tournament."

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Easy for him to say.

St. Benedict's, which found the Leopard tourney on the Internet last month in its search to fill an open date, advanced 10 wrestlers to the finals, won eight titles and racked up a winning total of 272.5 points. Springbrook finished second in the eight-team field with 202.5, 16 points ahead of Smithsburg.

"They were freakin' monsters," said Smithsburg coach Joe Dietrich of the New Jersey guests. "They were out of our league. They didn't belong here. I tried to tell them that, but ... we gave it a shot.

"Considering the overall strength of the teams here, it was a great deal to get third."

Five Leopards - Jeff Sprecher (160), Nate Hayes (171), Scott White (189), Mike Rinebolt (215) and James Whitt (275) - advanced to the finals, with Sprecher picking up the team's lone title.

Sprecher (10-2), ranked sixth in Maryland 2A-1A, downed Catoctin's previously unbeaten Zach Ausherman (5-1) 7-5 in the championship bout.

"It was nice to come back and get first at our own tournament after last year," said Sprecher, a junior, who lost by major decision in last year's 145 final.

"(Ausherman) is a really strong wrestler and knows his stuff," Sprecher said. "I just had to do my best and wrestle smart. He almost caught me a few times."

On his back with the scored tied 2-2 late in the first period, Sprecher made his decisive move, scoring a reversal and a pair of back points before the buzzer for a 6-2 lead.

"I had to get off my back before I could start scoring points," he said. "I just bridged and held on and turned him onto his back."

Trailing 7-2 after two periods, Ausherman answered with an escape and takedown in the third, before time expired on his comeback attempt.

Catoctin's Colten Eureka was the area's only other champion. Competing in his first prep tourney, the Cougars freshman improved to 7-0 with a 9-4 win over St. Benedict's Billy Casseus in the 112 final.

"I've wrestled since I've been little, but this was different. That's the strongest, most solid match I've ever wrestled," said Eureka, who breezed to the final with a second-period pin in the quarterfinals and a third-period tech fall in the semis. "That was the first match all season I really had to work for."

Catoctin, which finished fifth in the team standings with 130.5 points, also got a runner-up performance from Andy Kokoski (125) and third-place efforts from Sean Overzat (119) and Rick Toms (145).

Logan Miss (103), Derick Quillen (130) and Justin Hovermale (140) each took third for Smithsburg.

St. Benedict's Bobby Laraway, who pinned his way to the 152 title, received the tourney's Most Outstanding Wrestler honor.

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