River Hill (2000-2004, 2009, 2012) has won six county tournaments since 2000, when coach Brandon Lauer won his third county title as a senior.
“It was neck-and-neck the whole time and it was exciting and fun for both teams and the whole county,” Lauer said. “Every match is important ... we had opportunities all tournament to get points here, get points there ... and that’s the way it goes.”
River Hill’s five county champions were two more than any other team.
“We went five for six (in the finals) and that’s always a good confidence boost going into regionals,” said Logan Kirby, who defeated Mt. Hebron's Ryan Hassan, 2-0. “The freshmen have stepped up ... I’m proud of our team.”
Wilde Lake’s Tola Morakinyo (170), who pinned his way through the tournament in a total of 3:32, earned the Glenn DeVane Outstanding Wrestler award. Morakinyo is undefeated this season after losing to Cory Daniel in last year’s county finals and placing third in the state tournament.
“This is my last year, I had to get my name up on the wall and make history,” Morakinyo said. “I’ve still got two more weeks, but this is definitely a great start.”
Oakland Mills senior Zach Hensley (120) became a three-time Howard County champion in front of his home crowd, while Reservoir’s Mason Kilcarr (132) and Wilde Lake’s Malik Jackson (145), both juniors, earned their second titles.
“This is something I really wanted to do,” said Hensley, who got a pep talk from his former practice partner — three-time state champion Tony Farace — before his championship match against Reservoir's Trent Kilcarr. “He told me to wrestle my match and he told me good luck right before I went out there.”
Kilcarr's match against Wilde Lake's Daniel Andrews got off to a rocky start when his vision was blurred by an inadvertent poke to the eye.
"Everything was blurry but I just got things back together," said Kilcarr, who scored a pin with nine seconds left on the clock in the third period. "He was really strong. I couldn't work anything on top. I would have hand control and he would try to break it up, and I would just throw it over and get the half. After the third time he did that I just sucked it in and got the W."
Jackson is Wilde Lake’s first two-time county champ since Alvin Harris and Zathy Ndiang won back-to-back titles in 2010 and 2011.
“Coming into my second county finals match I was ready, I wasn’t the same young kid that I was before,” said Jackson, who defeated Mt. Hebron sophomore Connor Strunk, 7-3, in the finals.
Centennial freshman Austin Kraisser, whose older brother Nathan won four county and state titles between 2009 and 2012, won the 138-pound title.
Brian Kraisser also won two county titles in 2009 and 2010.
“The last six Centennial county winners were Kraissers and I wanted to keep that line going,” said Austin Kraisser, whose father Cliff was a 1980 county champ. “I got (the first) one out of the way and hopefully I can do the same things at regions and states. It’s always the first one that’s the toughest.”
Wilde Lake’s Jordan Trinh (126), Mt. Hebron’s Joe Kendrick (152) and Hammond’s Bryan Overton (160) all became first-time champions as seniors.
This is the first time since 1993 that Wilde Lake has had three county champions.
“Starting with my brother (Ethan) entering in ‘07 with Zathy and Alvin, they really started a whole new style of wrestling at Wilde Lake ... we don’t get a lot of people with experience, but we train them, we throw them to the wolves, and we learn fast,” said Trinh, who defeated River Hill freshman Sean Guthier, 1-0.
Kendrick, a returning state placewinner who is 28-3 this season, was given the fourth seed. But he used that as motivation, knocking off top-seeded defending county champ Sam Rowell in the semifinals, before beating Centennial’s Sameh Boulos, 3-0, in the championship.
“My seeding really motivated me to do better and do what I did here tonight,” he said. “I was a little angered, it was confusing. But as soon as I came to the realization that I was fourth and nothing was going to change that, it made me work harder.”