Glenelg senior heavyweight Sean Twigg has big shoes to fill this season — his own.
After wrestling varsity for the first time last season and winning a 1A/2A state title, Twigg — who has committed to wrestle for the University of Maryland next year — has a tough act to follow.
"He's really competitive. He's taken it up a notch. He knows that his job is more than just being one of the best wrestlers on the team, he knows that he has to be a leader as well to the younger guys this season," coach Chris Rosas said.
Last year, Twigg finished the season 37-5. Three of those losses were to River Hill's Jason Johnson, and two were to LaPlata's Jon Boarman. Johnson defeated Boarman for the 3A/4A heavyweight state title, and both were seniors.
So while improving on his junior season record is a strong possibility, his senior goal, as stated immediately after winning last year's title, is simple: to "win states." By doing so, Twigg could become the fourth Howard County heavyweight to win multiple state titles.
Long known for its prowess at the opposite end of the weight spectrum — 27 local wrestlers have won state titles at less than 120 pounds — Howard County is beginning to earn a reputation for its formidable upperweights.
That is partly due to necessity, says Rosas. In 2002, the heaviest three weight classes were 171, 189 and 275. There are now five weight classes of 170 pounds or heavier: 170, 182, 195, 220 and 285.
"Adding new weight classes up top forces the coaches to get out there and recruit those offensive linemen," Rosas said.
No team has been better at farming the football field than defending county, region and state tournament champion River Hill. Thanks in part to B.J. Benning, a former heavyweight county champ for River Hill, and an assistant coach on both the wrestling and football teams, eight members of River Hill's state champion football team will also wrestle, including returning state placewinners Cory Daniel and Logan Kirby. They'll also be joined by Justin Nestor at heavyweight after his dominant season as a two-way lineman.
"This is the most football players I've ever had on my roster," coach Brandon Lauer said. "They just went through a great season and it doesn't hurt to bring that attitude and mentality into the wrestling room."
Howard County returns considerable talent this season, including almost 70 county placewinners, but there will be a great void left by Centennial's Nathan Kraisser (now at North Carolina) and Oakland Mills' Tony Farace (now at Kutztown), who won a combined seven state titles over the past four years.
"Howard County graduated probably two of its best wrestlers ever, but there's still a lot of talent," Reservoir coach Andrew McIntyre said. "Any team that comes out of Howard County can go far at states."
While Nathan Kraisser, Howard County's first ever four-time state champ, has moved on to become a Tarheel, Centennial freshman Austin Kraisser is ready to carry on the family name. Wrestling at 138 pounds (Nathan wrestled as a freshman at 103), Austin faces a unique challenge going against juniors and seniors at the middle weights.
"He's got a tougher road ahead of him but he wants to do all the same things that Nathan did," coach Dave Roogow said. "He's in the weight room everyday."
And Austin Kraisser has already proven what he's capable of by becoming a standout starter on Centennial's varsity football team.
"Austin wrestles everywhere, all the time, against anyone, and he trains as hard as anyone," said Lauer. "The pressure comes from Austin that he puts on himself. He's wrestled for a long time."
Along with Glenelg and River Hill, Mt. Hebron, Oakland Mills, Reservoir and Wilde Lake are also expected to be contenders in the team competition this season.
The league season begins Thursday, Dec. 6, at 5:30 PM with the following matches: Atholton at Mt. Hebron, Glenelg at Howard, Hammond at Reservoir, Long Reach at Century, Oakland Mills at Wilde Lake and River Hill at Marriotts Ridge.
Scroll to the bottom for a complete schedule of 2012-2013 tournaments involving Howard County teams.