Area zoned out of region champions

February 25, 2007|by ANDREW MASON

Washington County put four wrestlers in the championship finals of the Maryland Class 2A-1A West Tournament on Saturday at North Hagerstown. But for the first time in the 27-year history of the tournament, the county failed to come away with a region title.

Smithsburg's Jeremy Harbaugh (189 pounds) and James Reilley (130) and North's Jim Eichelberger (140) and Jake Turner (135) each lost by decision in the finals.

"It's a tough region. Apparently, it's getting tougher," Smithsburg coach Joe Dietrich said. "When we go down to states next weekend, I'm sure this region will be the big winner."

The top four placewinners in each weight class Saturday advanced to next weekend's state tourney at the University of Maryland's Cole Field House.


Of the 10 county wrestlers who earned state berths, five are from Smithsburg, which tied for fourth in the 21-team field with 82 1/2 points - 19 1/2 behind champion Southern Garrett. Justin Hovermale placed third at 152, while Jon Gauss (135) and Brandon Knight (145) each placed fourth for the Leopards.

"Pretty cool," Dietrich said. "It's been a long time since we've had that many qualify. The kids did a good job. There were a few breakdowns here and there, but nobody gave up."

Hovermale, a four-year standout with more than 100 career wins, got the gorilla off his back by earning his first state berth after several near misses. After suffering his first loss of the season in the championship semifinals - a 3-1 overtime setback to Winters Mill's David Menasche - Hovermale (31-1) routed Century's Ben Harvantine 18-2 in the consolation semifinals to secure a state berth and then edged Northern Garrett's Andrew Ganoe 3-2 in a quadruple-overtime thriller in the bout for third place.

"That loss took the pressure off me," Hovermale said. "Now I'm not worried about taking that perfect record through states."

South Hagerstown's Chris Bell took third at 285 with another dramatic finish in the consolation finals. He took down Fort Hill's David White in the closing seconds to prevail, 3-2.

"I just kept going for his legs, snatching at them," Bell said. "States is next weekend so you have to try your hardest, put everything you have into it."

Williamsport's Earl Neville (119) and North's Josh Borland (171) each advanced by placing fourth.

By the time the championship finals started, however, qualifying for states was no longer an issue. Winning titles was the only concern.

Harbaugh was the only one of the county's finals foursome to lead his championship match, scoring a first-period takedown against Beall's Noah Devore.

With a 2-1 advantage, Harbaugh chose bottom to begin the second period, during which Devore took the lead for good with a four-point nearfall.

"He pretty much tied me up in the second period," Harbaugh said. "I controlled him in the third period, but I couldn't turn him."

Eichelberger, Turner and Reilley couldn't climb out of their holes in the finals.

Eichelberger trailed Southern Garrett's Daniel Carr - last year's state runner-up at 135 - 7-0 early in third before falling, 7-3.

"I knew I had to come back, but against a good guy like him, you can't do it with 10 seconds left," said Eichelberger, who placed second in the region at 130 last year. "I'm a little mad. It's kind of cool being a two-time runner-up, but I want to win it one of these years."

Reilley trailed Walkersville's Tyler White 6-0 after two periods and lost, 8-4.

"I'm not really happy with second place," Reilley said. "I came out fully expecting to win. To get beat like that was a surprise."

Turner lost 7-0 to White's identical twin, Zach.

Just reaching the finals, however, was a major accomplishment for Turner, who didn't even have his own spot on the bracket when the tourney began Friday. After winning a pigtail bout to earn the eighth and final seed, Turner upset the No. 1 seed Friday and then defeated Smithsburg's Gauss in the championship semis.

"I was happy being the underdog with everybody looking at me as the last-seeded guy, so I could shock them," Turner said.

Williamsport senior Jimmy Fiorita, the No. 1 seed at 145, suffered a dislocated shoulder in the championship semis and was done for the day.

"To end his career that way is disappointing," Williamsport coach Mike Rechtorovic said. "The guy he pinned in the first round (eventual third-place finisher Patrick Morris of Century) is going to states and he's not."

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