If there ever was a time in which Hereford could make noise in the postseason, the 2012-2013 wrestling campaign might be it. The Bulls returned 11 of 14 starters from last year's team that finished second in the Baltimore County championships and lost to Class 3A-4A state dual-meet champion Urbana in the regional dual-meet final by three points.
Six top-six finishes in the region or county last season — seniors Patrick Anderson (220 pounds, 11-0 this year), Kevin Wheeler (132), Mike Swiger (285. 11-0) and Brian Wensel (138) and juniors Brock Turnbaugh (195) and Anthony Genco (126, 11-0) — highlight the roster.
"I think they have a lot of potential in both the dual-meet and tournament-team side," Hereford coach Ron Causey said. "But they have to decide to commit to all the hard work that is necessary to make that happen."
The Hereford coaching staff is confident that will happen for the Bulls to achieve their lofty goals.
They are especially eager for a county championship after finishing second both last year and 2009 and third in 2010. Prior to that stretch, Hereford claimed the title three out of four years.
Owings Mills has won the last three titles. The Eagles are the prime target for the Bulls.
"We would love to knock off Owings Mills," Hereford assistant coach Brett Baier said. "That's what our seniors are working for."
Hereford has some vastly talented seniors, but the junior Genco is the Bulls most accomplished wrestler.
Genco won 39 matches last year at 106, finished fifth in the state, second in the county and third in the region last year.
Now, the Hereford coaches are talking about Genco winning it all.
"He can wrestle with anybody," Causey said. "He is capable of winning states and being a Division I wrestler if that what he wants. He wants to go to West Point."
Causey said that Genco's stint in the U.S. Cadet and Junior National in Fargo, N.D.. for the second straight summer has given him an edge on opponents.
Genco is only the second Bull to wrestle in that prestigious tournament in the last 17 years. Current University of Maryland standout Josh Asper is the other.
"He has made tremendous strides," Causey explained. "You are in the wrestling room in the spring and summer preparing for Fargo. You are wrestling against the elite competition in the country in Fargo."
Swiger is another wrestler that has particularly impressed Causey.
The coach feels the senior will have a memorable season after going 21-6 last year and placing both second in the county and region at 220.
"He can contend for a state title," the coach said. "He is bigger, stronger, faster and better."
Causey and Baier also interested to see how much success Anderson has. He competed at heavyweight last year, posted a 25-win season and was sixth in the county and region.
This year, Anderson will wrestle at heavyweight and 220 after losing significant weight.
"Is he faster?," Causey asked. "Yeah. He worked really hard."
Three other Hereford underclassmen, namely Turnbaugh (3rd in county, 4th in region last year, 9-2 this year), Wheeler (3rd in county) and Wensel (6th in county), are poised for big seasons.
But Baier seemed anxious to talk about sophomores Dylan Gray (152) and Billy Hess (160, 8-2).
Each grappler won at least 22 matches last year.
"Dylan and Billy were both freshmen in the starting lineup last year," Baier said. "They had some flashes of brilliance. The season ended the way neither anticipated. They are both coming in with a hunger and drive to win and prove themselves."
Senior Charles Stafford (145), juniors Josh Perry (113), Alex Kubala (138/145), Luke Wickiser (170), Joe Miller (182) and Andrew Lopez (126), sophomore Russell Carter (120) and freshman Jordan Weinstein (106), round out Hereford's starting lineup.
Kubala and Weinstein won junior varsity championships last year.
"Even though we are returning 11 starters, we have a lot of work to do," Causey said. "Not all these guys have wrestled since the first grade. A lot of these guys didn't start until ninth grade. While they have progressed nicely and rapidly, they have a lot of work to do."