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H-M No. 1 set to face U.S. No. 1

February 06, 2004|by ANDREW MASON

andrewm@herald-mail.com

The Blair Academy wrestling team probably won't be too intimidated by Mercersburg Academy's No. 1 Herald-Mail ranking when the teams collide Saturday in a Mid-Atlantic Prep League quad meet at Mercersburg.

Blair (N.J.) is the No. 1 team in the country according to the consensus of national polls.

"They are the top program in the U.S.," Mercersburg coach Rick Hendrickson said. "This is not a mythical ranking. They wrestle the best teams and beat them. They take people apart.

"We wrestled very well last year against them and got beat, 66-6. We just look at it as an opportunity to measure ourselves against the No. 1 team in the country."

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At best, the Blue Storm (12-1, 2-0) can hope to go 2-1 Saturday and capture second place in the six-team MAPL. The other teams competing are Hun and Lawrenceville. Mercersburg, which finished third in the league last year behind Blair and Peddie, defeated Peddie and Hill earlier this season.

"There's a lot on the line," said Hendrickson, who recently recorded his 275th coaching victory and is 180-50 in his 11 years at Mercersburg. "Finishing second in this league is like winning any other league."

He said there's not an inkling of weakness anywhere in Blair's lineup.

"There's a running joke," Hendrickson said, "that Blair's backup team would still be in the top 10 in the country."

Twelve of the Blue Storm's 14 starters have winning records this season, led by sophomore 160-pounder Brad Nielson's 25-0 mark.

Nielson, a Maryland 2A-1A West champ for Walkersville last year, will have his hands full trying to stay perfect this weekend. Against Blair, he likely will face senior Charlie Clark, who was 114-10 and a two-time state placewinner in New York before transferring to Blair this school year.

"We've been waiting to see just how good Nielson is," Hendrickson said. "But Charlie Clark's tougher than nails. ... This is a potential preview for the national tournament in three weeks."

Lions seek revenge


No. 2 Walkersville (12-1) fell 32-28 to South Carroll on Monday, losing for only the second time in two seasons.

"It was a bad day," Walkersville coach Scott McIntosh said. "But it was great dual, everyone fighting for every little point."

The Lions' last loss came against Beall in last year's 2A-1A West Dual Championships final.

Walkersville could have a chance to avenge both losses at the West championships this Wednesday. All three teams appear to be locks for the four-team battle, which probably also will include Southern Garrett and be wrestled at either South Carroll or Beall.

"It's going to be a battle, but our guys are looking forward to it because we can beat those guys," McIntosh said. "They're fuming, they're hot, they're upset. Hopefully we can use that in the practice room and carry it through to next week."

All in the family


Sixteen area wrestlers received listings in the first batch of West Virginia individual rankings released Thursday.

Three of them share the same dinner table. Jefferson teammates and brothers Colton (freshman), Codie (senior) and Corie (sophomore) Gustines are ranked fifth, first and seventh at 103, 135 and 152 in Class AAA.

"There are actually four of us," said Codie, who's unbeaten this season. "I have a little brother, Colin, who's 8 who's been wrestling since he's been 3.

"He's going to be the best."

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