Because of its strong ties with the football team in recent years, River Hill wrestling has earned a reputation for having outstanding upperweight wrestlers. But the lower weights have been pulling their weight.
Lee Carter (132) especially enjoyed the chance to wrestle a bracketed tournament, as he defeated Hereford's Kevin Wheeler, 4-0, to become a Franklin Invitational champion.
"I've done all right at the countys and regions, but this is the first time I've actually had great success" at a tournament, said Carter, who is now 22-6.
Carter, the fourth-seed, pinned top-seeded Alfred Martinez of Dundalk with 22 seconds left in their semifinal match.
"Today as a whole I wrestled some of the best wrestling I've had all year," he said. "I've been getting in good shape at practice, and I've been drilling shot defense, which is something I struggled at earlier in the season."
River Hill's best wrestler when it comes to shot defense might be junior Michael Beck (106), who hadn't given up a takedown all year coming into Saturday's championship round.
In the finals, Beck (27-0) finally gave up a takedown, to Owings Mills' Jake Rendelman, but he recovered to score his third pin of the tournament.
"It wasn't really on my mind at the time, but during the match when I got taken down I actually thought about it," said Beck, who lost in overtime in last year's county tournament finals. "But I won the match and that's the only thing that really matters."
As a first year varsity wrestler last year, Beck finished 38-11 without placing at the state tournament. But he is now one of the top-ranked lightweights in the state.
"In the offseason I went out to Fargo, North Dakota for a tournament, and just went to all the Team Maryland training. That just opened a lot of doors and opened up a lot of technique that I wasn't familiar with yet and just made me a better wrestler overall," he said.
The Hawks, who also got a third-place finish from senior heavyweight Justin Nestor, will now prepare for Wilde Lake on Jan. 24, and further down the line, undefeated league rival Glenelg on Feb. 1. That match could decide the regular season county champion.
"We've all been working hard," Brian Kirby said. "Of course our goal is to win states. We're on a path right now, but if we just keep our practice techniques going, and keep working hard, lifting, doing agility, I think we'll do well."
Mt. Hebron, which placed fourth as a team with 123 points, sent Hassan, Connor Strunk (145) and Joe Kendrick (152), to the finals. Jeff Hayden (113) won, 9-7, in overtime of the consolation finals to take third.