With eight local wrestlers in the championship round of the state wrestling tournament Saturday evening at the University of Maryland's Cole Field House, the stage was set for a banner evening for Howard County wrestling.
But when the mats were finally rolled up at the end of the tournament, only two local wrestlers — Glenelg's Sean Twigg (285) and River Hill's Cory Daniel (195) — were flying championship flags.
River Hill, the defending 3A/4A state champion, finished second in the team standings behind Urbana (97.5-89) and Glenelg was third in the 1A/2A race with 87 points, just half-a-point behind runner-up Owings Mills but well behind champion Winters Mill (121).
Daniel, a junior, ended a streak of five straight setbacks in the championship finals for Howard County wrestlers by edging previously undefeated Ralph Bernardo of Wootton in overtime, 3-1.
"He was one of those guys that know how to play defense ... he was obviously a little better at it and stronger, knew a few more moves," said Daniel, who improved to 42-0 with the win. "It's definitely a great feeling. I'm only a junior, I really prepared well for it and hopefully I can come back and do it again next year."
Daniel's practice partner, Logan Kirby (220), had a similarly close match against Northwest's previously undefeated Luis Beteta. But Kirby was unable to score the winning takedown before time expired, and lost for the first time this season, 2-1.
"It was a great match ... Bernardo and (Beteta) were both big strong kids and wanted to stall and keep it close. Unfortunately Logan wasn't able to get it," Daniel said. "Hopefully he'll get his next year."
Glenelg senior heavyweight Sean Twigg became a two-time state champion when he defeated Winters Mill junior Jake Utz, 1-0.
"Multiple championships aren't easy to come by and actually he's the third in school history," coach Chris Rosas said. "The spotlight was on him. You're Sean Twigg the returning state champion and you've got a huge target on your back."
Twigg pinned Utz during the 1A/2A state dual meet championship three weeks ago, but said that this time he approached the match differently.
"Then it was I needed to get a pin, here it was I needed to win," said Twigg, who became the first Maryland wrestler to win two heavyweight state titles since Oakland Mills' Robert Scott in 2000. "His coaches obviously prepared him really well: the legs, the power half coming in."
Twigg has committed to wrestle for the University of Maryland next year.
"That makes it that much better," he said.
Twigg was Howard County's only finalist on the 1A/2A side, but Oakland Mills' Zach Hensley (120) and Jaron Smith (160), a sophomore, each won their consolation championships to take third.
River Hill got third place finishes from junior Michael Beck (106) and senior Justin Nestor (285). As a first year wrestler, Nestor's finish was an impressive accomplishment.
"Nestor had an unbelievable day," coach Brandon Lauer said. "It's amazing from where he was Dec. 5 not really knowing anything, even rules, to finishing third in the state is a testament to how hard he works, how coachable his is and the character he has."
But as the top-ranked 106-pounder in the 3A/4A coming into the tournament, the previously undefeated Beck was stunned by a second period pin against Westminster freshman Ryker Eckenbarger in Friday night's quarterfinal round.
But Beck wrestled back through the consolation bracket and eventually scored a first-period pin against Eckenbarger in the consolation championship.
"I was really proud of his effort to be able to refocus and have composure and come back through," Lauer said. "(In the quarterfinals) he countered a bar and sat up on it, they started rolling around and laced their legs and had arms tied up and (Eckenbarger) just fell out on top. It happened so fast and because of that he didn't have time to counter the counter ... bridging and basic elementary things that you're taught early on, good people aren't there a lot."
"Yesterday was a rough day for us," Lauer said. "We knew we wanted to have five placewinners and we thought that would put us in good position to win the championship."
Mt. Hebron sophomore Jeff Hayden kicked off the finals at 106, losing a close decision to Damascus sophomore Mikey Macklin, 5-4, after scoring a late takedown. Hayden's teammate, senior Joe Kendrick (152), also lost in the finals, 7-2 to Severna Park senior Sam Ziff.
Ziff also defeated Kendrick in the regional semifinals last weekend, 9-3. Kendrick finishes his Vikings' career with more than 100 wins and a 2013 Howard County title, and will wrestle for Millersville University in Pennsylvania next year.
Reservoir junior Mason Kilcarr (132) was his school's lone representative in the finals, but he ran into a buzzsaw in Broadneck's defending state champion Cameron Harrell, who scored the pin in 54 seconds.
Last weekend, Kilcarr ran into Harrell in the regional finals and lost, 5-2.
Wilde Lake's Tola Morakinyo (170) also had a regional final rematch, though under a little bit different circumstances.
Last weekend, Morakinyo met Bel Air's previously undefeated senior William Holder-Moore in the 3A/4A East regional championship.
Morakinyo won that showdown, but Holder-Moore won Saturday night's rematch, 7-5.
"I had nothing to lose really. He already beat me so I definitely felt like I was the underdog in the match," Holder-Moore said. I knew "not to go upper body, and if I get a leg keep two hands on it and not give him a chance to rest."
Morakinyo, who finished the season with an outstanding 39-1 record, scored a reversal early in the third period, but couldn't get the nearfall to win or force overtime.
"He was trying to hit me with the merkel, but I felt pretty comfortable in my base, so I didn't really try to get up, I just tried to clear my leg out so I didn't go to my back," Holder-Moore said.
Centennial freshman Austin Kraisser (138) lost for the first time in three months, and it came in the state championship match to Bethesda Chevy Chase senior Charlie Banaszak. Kraisser scored the first takedown, but trailed 3-2 at the end of the first period and 6-2 after two. Kraisser appeared to be outmuscled by Banaszak, but the freshman rose to the occasion in the third period, scoring an escape and a takedown in less than 60 seconds, and then nearly scoring the tying takedown in the final seconds.
Kraisser's disappointment in losing his chance to become a four-time state champion like his older brother Nathan was evident on his face, but he still carried himself off the mat like a true champion.
“He took it pretty hard. He really wanted to be not just a state champ, but a 4-time state champ. Not many kids come into high school with that much pressure on them and he never wilted under it,” coach Dave Roogow said. “Maybe even more than all of the wins, I am most proud of the way he battled in that match."
Banaszak lost only twice this year, both times to Bishop McNamara's Alfred Bannister, a National Preps and Beast of the East champion.
Hammond's Bryan Overton (160) also placed third.
Finals matches involving Howard County wrestlers:
3A/4A championship matches
106: Damascus sophomore Mikey Macklin (45-3) dec. Mt. Hebron sophomore Jeff Hayden (37-8), 5-4.
132: Broadneck sophomore Cameron Harrell (32-1) pin Reservoir junior Mason Kilcarr (36-4), :54.
138: Bethesda (CC) senior Charlie Banaszak (44-2) dec. Centennial freshman Austin Kraisser (38-4), 7-5.
152: Severna Park senior Sam Ziff (40-4) dec. Mt. Hebron senior Joe Kendrick (34-5), 7-2.
170: Bel Air senior William Holder-Moore (46-1) dec. Wilde Lake senior Tola Morakinyo (39-1), 7-5.
195: River Hill junior Cory Daniel (42-0) dec. Wootton senior Ralph Bernardo (41-1), 3-1 OT.
220: Northwest senior Luis Beteta (39-0) dec. River Hill junior Logan Kirby (36-0), 2-1.
106: River Hill junior Michael Beck pin Westminster freshman Ryker Eckenbarger, 2:06.
145: Meade sophomore Travis Chidebe dec. Wilde Lake junior Malik Jackson, 2-1.
160: Hammond senior Bryan Overton maj. Flowers senior Clyde McBride, 11-1
220: Quince Orchard junior Connor Tilton dec. Mt. Hebron junior Ryan Hassan, 5-0.
285: River Hill senior Justin Nestor dec. Urbana junior Nick Keller, 11-5.
3A/4A fifth place finals
152: Reservoir sophomore Sam Rowell dec. Thomas Stone sophomore Ryan Sharp, 7-2.
220: Reservoir junior Michael Sullivan dec. Hereford senior Mike Swiger, 5-4.
3A/4A top ten teams
1. Urbana, 97.5
2. River Hill, 89
3. Northern, 76
4. LaPlata and Thomas Stone, 54.5
6. Thomas Wootton, 54
7. Mt. Hebron and Damascus, 51
9. Huntingtown, 50
10. Bethesda-Chevy Chase, 47
1A/2A championship finals
285: Glenelg senior Sean Twigg (41-1) dec. Winters Mill junior Jake Utz (38-3), 1-0.
1A/2A third place finals
120: Oakland Mills senior Zach Hensley dec. Parkside senior Lamont Brickous, 6-2.
138: Bohemia Manor junior Jake Trybus dec. Glenelg senior Ryan Carter, 3-0.
160: Oakland Mills sophomore Jaron Smith dec. Kent County junior Justin Peacock, 5-0.
1A/2A fifth place finals
106: Catoctin sophomore Garrett Buckley dec. Glenelg sophomore Tim Null, 7-5.
126: Glenelg junior Zach Shackelford dec. Dundalk senior Alfred Martinez, 3-1.
170: Glenelg senior Anthony Pagnotta dec. Perryville senior David Doring, 5-1.
195: Oakland Mills junior Robby Happy dec. DuBois senior Deon Hector, 9-5.
285: Oakland Mills senior Roy Kadje dec. Dundalk senior Wayne Maddox, 3-2.
1A/2A top ten teams
1. Winters Mill, 121
2. Owings Mills, 87.5
3. Glenelg, 87
4. Catoctin, 85
5. Oakdale, 66
6. Oakland Mills, 62
7. South Carroll, 59
8. Kent Island, 50
9. Snow Hill, 45
10. Manchester Valley, 43.5