Catonsville at Dulaney Wrestling

Dulaney's Jacob Asher lifts Catonsville's Greg Eads during their 160-pound match on Dec. 5. (Matt Hazlett, Patuxent Homestead / December 4, 2013)

It would not be surprising to see Dulaney seniors Dylan Ruiz and Jacob Asher or junior Sean Hoffman capture a postseason wrestling championship. It could be a county, regional or even a Class 4A state title.

The three are that good.

They definitely comprise one of the best trios Dulaney's Desi McNelis has coached in his 16 years on the job.

And he's not the only one who thinks so.

Catonsville coach Eric Warm was so impressed with the three Lion wrestlers, he seemed to talk more about them than his own team after the Comets' season-opening 46-33 victory over Dulaney.

"I said to Desi, 'It makes coming to your practice room fun when you have three studs you know are going to win most of their matches if not all,'" Warm said. "They are just elite wrestlers at any level in the state."

Of the three, 152-pound Asher, who didn't start wrestling until he reached high school, is the most decorated. He won both a county and regional championship last year at 145 pounds while going 39-5.

That follows a strong sophomore campaign in which Asher posted a 33-11 record and finished third in the county and region at 134.

Asher has had solid county and regional tournaments for two years in a row, but he's focused on a high finish in the state tournament after failing to place last year.

Asher has worked hard to improve his technique.

"He won two matches at states, then lost two in overtime to be eliminated," McNelis said. "He lost because he didn't know how to ride last year. He's been working on that and it's made him a more well-rounded wrestler."

Ruiz (126) placed fourth in the state last year at 120. He has a two-year record of 61-20.

"I am seeing a lot of improvement in Dylan," McNelis said. "Jacob has been a year-round wrestler. Dylan hasn't been a pure wrestler. He's been into mixed martial arts because his dad does that, but he really seems to have caught on to wrestling in the last year."

Hoffman (160) is gunning for a county or a regional title after recording top-six finishes in both tournaments (fourth in region, county) last year and in 2011 (fourth in region, fifth in county).

Dulaney's talent doesn't end with Ruiz, Asher and Hoffman.

The Lions also returned juniors Elmer Smith (285), Dan Matthews (145), Malik Kassim (113), Fabrizio Scott (120) and Jessie Beall (138) and senior Aaron Sless (182) to the starting lineup.

They're joined promising newcomers elevated from last year's junior varsity, including juniors Andy Wall (195), Soman Kahan (170), Tom Pettinelli (220-285), Tyler Blanton (132), Nancy Delcid (106) and Noah Squire-Rogers (106).

"I think it's one of the better balanced teams I have had," McNelis said.

Said Asher: "I think we can be one of the better teams in the county."

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