River Hill wrestling coach Brandon Lauer knew his target. Score 100 points in the 4A/3A state wrestling tournament Saturday night at Cole Field House and go home with the school's second state tournament championship trophy.
"I told them before the tournament that we needed to score 100 points -- and I felt like that would do it," said Lauer, whose team scored 92.5 points to place second behind champion North Hagerstown (96.5). "We fell a little bit short of that, and there was another team that had a little bit more than us."
But after watching three of his seniors — Michael Beck (120), Logan Kirby (195) and Cory Daniel (220) — win state titles, it was hard for Lauer to feel as if his team fell short.
"Three champs is incredible. The school has had only four individual champions," said Lauer, who won three state titles for River Hill from 1998 to 2000. "For Cory to get his second, Logan to break his streak of runners-up, and Michael to right the wrong of last year's catastrophe in the quarterfinals."
Beck, Kirby and Daniel have gone a combined 253-5 over the past two seasons, a winning percentage of more than 98 percent.
"It's a great way to end their careers, and I couldn't be prouder of them," Lauer said. "They've been staples of this program and it's awesome to see them go out with a win as state champs. It's a special night."
It was a special night for Howard County as a whole. Local wrestlers won seven state titles, breaking the record of six set in 2001.
Reservoir senior Mason Kilcarr (132), Centennial sophomore Austin Kraisser (145), Oakland Mills junior Jaron Smith (160) and Howard senior Jared Rodriguez (182) climbed the podium as well. (Read below for capsules and championship videos of the 4A/3A Howard County champs.)
"It's just a testament to what's going on in our county, the emphasis on trying to get these kids to wrestle in junior league, getting these kids to wrestle on junior varsity programs that are strong ... everybody wants to win, so it just raises the level," Lauer said. "On top of that you add great coaches throughout the county and it equals success and recognition down here at Cole Field House."
Mt. Hebron junior Jeff Hayden (120) and Wilde Lake senior Malik Jackon (152) each lost hard-fought decisions in the finals to place second.
Mt. Hebron junior Connor Strunk (152) and Reservoir senior Wes Beattie (182) each battled back through the consolation brackets to take third.
River Hill senior Michael Beck (120)
Beck faced a familiar foe in the state finals: Mt. Hebron junior Jeff Hayden. The former junior league teammates have met six times in high school competition, with Beck winning each time by a close decision.
"I knew I was going to have to wrestle Jeff again," said Beck, who placed third last year as a junior. "I know what he's going to do, he knows what I'm going to do, so it just comes down to who can execute their technique. I knew he was going to come at me with a single, so I was keeping my arm down like I did the past couple of matches."
Beck lost only once last year, when he was uncharacteristically caught in a second period pin during a scramble in the quarterfinals.
Against Hayden on Saturday, Beck led 3-2 with 60 seconds left, and came out on top during a scramble to score the insurance takedown.
"I'm ecstatic, this feels great," said the senior, who hopes to wrestle for Maryland next year. "I knew I could do it last year but we came up short, so it just feels great to come out and get it done."
Reservoir senior Mason Kilcarr (132)
The memories of last year's first period pin against Broadneck's two-time state champion Cameron Harrell were still fresh in the mind of Kilcarr, who blanked North Hagerstown junior Hunter Faith, 5-0, for his first state title.