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Reilley looks out for No. 1

December 31, 2006|by CHRIS CARTER / Staff Correspondent

SMITHSBURG - Getting to the championship finals of the Leopard Holiday Invitational is no big deal for Smithsburg's James Reilley.

The Leopards junior made it to the finals in each of his first two years at Smithsburg, but each time he was forced to stand on the podium in the second-place spot.

Reilley finally got to see what life was like at the top of the podium Saturday after earning an 8-5 decision over Rising Sun's Nick Dawson in the 130-pound weight class.

Reilley was one of three Smithsburg champions at the 18th annual tournament. Justin Hovermale (152 pounds) won his third straight title and Jeremy Harbaugh (189) won his first.

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"I've been to the finals for three years but never won, and it's been frustrating," Reilley said. "I got really fired up and mentally, I was ready to go."

Reilley used a more defensive approach at the start of his bout against Dawson - last year's champion at 125. Dawson scored an early takedown before Reilley tied the score at 2-2 on a pair of escapes.

Then Reilley went on the offensive and scored two takedowns while yielding three escapes to go up 6-5 in the third period. He finally clinched the match with a third takedown with 13 seconds left.

"At first, I just wanted to weather the storm," Reilley said. "I knew he was an aggressive guy and I thought if I waited for a while, he might get tired."

"(Reilley) is a very tenacious wrestler," said Smithsburg coach Joe Dietrich. "He's very quick and wirey. He's always going at it."

Hovermale dispensed of Polytechnic's Sammy Morris in dominant fashion at 152. Hovermale scored a takedown and nearfall in the first 50 seconds of the bout to go ahead 5-0, before pinning Morris in 1:13.

"(Morris) was standing there with his hand on his hip and it really ticked me off," Hovermale said. "I hooked up underhanded, picked him up and got him to the ground. I heard him screaming and thought the ref would stop (the match), but he didn't. I was pretty excited."

Like Reilley, Harbaugh had a late surge to pull away and defeat Rising Sun's Richard Gumpert at 189. Harbaugh was penalized twice for stalling and found himself up just one at 10-9 with 21 seconds left. But he made his move on Gumpert with time winding down and picked up a takedown and nearfall at the buzzer to secure a 15-9 decision.

"I watched (Gumpert's) previous two matches, found his weakness - that he only has one move - and utilized it," Harbaugh said. "I knew I had to go strong at the end."

The Leopard placed two more in the finals - Jon Gauss at 135 and Brandon Knight at 145 - but both were taken down by Rising Sun wrestlers.

Matt Jackson - named the day's outstanding wrestler - matched Hovermale with his third consecutive title by earning a tech fall of Gauss in the final seconds of the third period. A few minutes earlier on an adjacent mat, Aaron Williams picked up a 9-3 decision on Knight.

Monica Hovermale, Justin's sister, pinned South Hagestown's Dane Devin for the second time this season to win the third-place bout at 103 and Nate Ridenour also was third at 215 for Smithsburg. Four other Leopards placed fourth.

"We definitely stepped it up this year," Dietrich said. "We had a lot of good performances against some really good teams. But still, there were a couple of disappointments."

The Leopards finished fourth in the team standings with 195 points, behind third-place Springbrook (203), second-place Milford Mill (232) and first-place Rising Sun (250), which has won three straight Leopard Invitationals.

South Hagerstown, the only other area team in the tournament finished seventh with 87 points, ahead of only McDonough. The Rebels had no wrestlers in the finals, but had Derick Boerstler (125) and Chris Bell (285) win third-place bouts.

"I felt really good about this tournament," said Rebels coach Ralph Stottlemyer. "We're scoring a lot more than we did earlier this year and the boys are improving and getting in better shape."

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