County sends 10 wrestlers to states

March 02, 2007|by ANDREW MASON

Just qualifying for the Maryland Class 2A-1A State Wrestling Tournament was the No. 1 goal of nearly every Washington County wrestler at the beginning of the season.

"It's just a big accomplishment, making states," Smithsburg 189-pounder Jeremy Harbaugh said.

The two-day state tournament begins this afternoon at the University of Maryland's Cole Field House.

Of the 10 county wrestlers who made it by placing in the top four of their weight classes at last weekend's West region tournament, five are from Smithsburg - representing more than a third of the Leopards' lineup.

"For a little school in the corner of Washington County, not too bad," Smithsburg coach Joe Dietrich said.

Harbaugh will be joined by teammates James Reilley (130), Jon Gauss (135), Brandon Knight (145) and Justin Hovermale (152).

"It's a great team accomplishment," Harbaugh said. "The competition in the West region is outstanding compared to the other three regions."


The Smithsburg quintet and the county's other five qualifiers - Williamsport's Earl Neville (119), South Hagerstown's Chris Bell (285) and North Hagerstown's Jake Turner (135), Jim Eichelberger (140) and Josh Borland (171) - are ready to find out just how outstanding.

Now that they're in, the goal is to stay in for as long as possible. The top six in each 16-man bracket earn places.

"I can't wait. I'm ready," said Eichelberger, who went 1-2 at states last year at 130. "I want to place top three."

Knight and Borland also are returning state qualifiers, while Neville, a senior, is making his third trip to Cole Field House after missing last year's postseason.

Despite the experience, Neville only got in as the region's fourth and final seed at 119, meaning he'll have to wrestle the South champion - Hammond's Devon Gillett, last year's state champ at 112 - in the first round.

"It's a real tough weight class," Williamsport coach Mike Rechtorovic said. "But you make it out of this region, anything's possible."

After Turner's improbable regional run - which began with a pigtail match just to get his name on the bracket, and ended with a runner-up finish - the North sophomore has only one thing on his mind.

"Place," Turner said, "so I can get my picture on the wall at North. My biggest goal is to get up there, more than anything."

Hovermale, a senior, enters his first state tournament as the West's third seed at 152. He suffered his first loss of the season in the regional semifinals against Winters Mill's David Menasche, who's also on Hovermale's half of the bracket this weekend.

"It's less pressure not having to go in and defend an undefeated record," said Hovermale, who's 31-1. "My goal is to keep that one loss. You have to aim high. It's my last year."

While it also is Bell's last year, it also is the South senior's first full season of varsity wrestling.

"He weighed 330 pounds last year," Rebels coach Ralph Stottlemyer said.

Bell, who's been weighing in at 275-280 pounds this year, is 19-6 and fresh off a victory in the consolation finals at regionals.

"I think he can place. I really do," Stottlemyer said. "He's getting a lot more confidence in himself."

Today's schedule for both 2A-1A and 4A-3A is: Preliminaries, 2:30-6:30 p.m.; quarterfinals, 6:30-8:30; consolation preliminaries, 8:30-10:15.

Saturday's schedule for both classes is: Consolation first round, 9:30-11 a.m.; championship semifinals, 11 a.m.-1:15 p.m.; consolation quarterfinals, 1:15-2:15; consolation semifinals, 2:15-3:30; consolation finals, 4-6; championship finals, 6:30-9.

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