Western Tech wrestling coach Jay Solera realizes this is a rare season. He has three athletes who are contenders for championships at the Maryland state wrestling tournament at the University of Maryland on Saturday.
Seniors Tejon Anthony (138 pounds), Austin Harrison (170) and Necho Freeman (220) won't be lacking confidence going into the season-ending tournament after all three captured Class 2A-1A North regional titles this past Saturday at Overlea High.
"I admit, it probably won't be like this every year," Solera said. "It just hit me a day after the regional tournament. We have three champs."
Of the three, Anthony has won the most championships. And he keeps doing it in dominating fashion.
A week after Anthony (29-2) scored a 13-5 decision over Towson's Danny Pittas to secure his third Baltimore County championship, the senior won by technical fall, 21-5, over Hereford's Craig Worpell to grab his third straight regional title.
The 5-foot-6 Anthony, who plans to wrestle at George Mason University next year, would love to add a second Class 2A/1A state title to his resume.
He became the first Western Tech wrestler to win a state title in 2012 in the 120-pound final.
Anthony joined the varsity as a sophomore after wrestling in a junior league, the Woodlawn Wolfpack.
"I know this: He has to wrestle four quality matches to be a state champion," Solera said of Anthonly, whose career record is106-12. "I think he has more than that in him. Tejon is one of those wrestlers who wants to be at the top of the podium. He doesn't see himself anywhere else."
Anthony won't be short on motivation after finishing fifth last year at 132.
"He was a little banged up last year," Solera said. "He had turf toe."
Solera was elated with Freeman's 3-2 victory over Hereford senior Brock Turnbaugh, a two-time county champion, in the regional final.
Turnbaugh had pinned Freeman during a January dual meet. Freeman took fourth in the region last year.
"It's rare a kid gets pinned and comes back and beats a guy of that caliber," Solera said. "Necho never stopped believing he could beat Brock Turnbaugh."
Now, Freeman (27-5) is focused on winning a state title. He went 2-2 at states last year.
"I think he has as good a chance as anybody," Solera said. "I think at 220 pounds, you don't have to out-technical guys. It comes down to the big guy that works harder than the competition."
Harrison won his regional title by injury default, winning by forfeit over Owings Mills' Islam Juraev.
It's another achievement for Harrison, who surpassed the 100-win mark when he took home a county title Feb. 22
"The kid didn't want to wrestle Austin," Solera said. "He had beaten him twice already this year. I guess the kid wanted to be fresh for states."
Catonsville senior Calloway Lee won his first 16 matches this season, but after he suffered his first loss, when he took third at the Patriot Classic Jan. 11, he didn't hide his goals for the rest of the season.
"State champ," Lee responded when asked his ultimate goal.
Lee took one step closer when he won the Class 3A-4A North Region championship.
Lee won the 220-pound weight class with a 13-2 major decision over Southwestern's Rajee Washington.
Lee improved to 36-3 with the victory and was the only Comet who finished in the top four and earned a spot in the state tournament.
Senior heavyweight Jordan Reynolds had been a candidate for the state tournament, after winning his first 11 matches, but he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee and missed the rest of the season.
Two of Lee's three losses this season came in sudden-death overtime and sharpened him for the regional title run.
In one of those losses, Glenelg's Craig Burris escaped with nine seconds left in the final 30-second period when Lee had to ride him out to win the match.
"That match actually made me better," said Lee. "I just have to ride him out longer or don't ever get in that situation. That match made me mentally better and physically better."
In the other loss in the county championship final, Hereford's Brock Turnbaugh escaped five seconds into the final sudden-death period.
Lee wrestled heavyweight last year when he weighed 230 pounds, but this year he dropped to 220 and is physically stronger and quicker than most of his opponents.
Last season, he qualified for the state tournament, but lost both of his matches and finished 30-18.
Although he was the only Comet to qualify for College Park, Catonsville did get strong regional performances from Andrew Southwell (5th, 113), Kojo Danquah (5th, 170) and Greg Eads (6th, 160).