Howard County wrestling fans will have plenty to cheer for at Saturday night's state championships. Nine local athletes won in Saturday morning's semifinal round at the University of Maryland's Cole Field House to advance to the championships, scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m.
River Hill, led by finalists Michael Beck (120), Logan Kirby (195) and Cory Daniel (220), was in a tie for first with North Hagerstown at 78.5 points after the conclusion of the semifinals.
Oakland Mills' Jaron Smith (160), the lone Howard County representative in the 2A/1A state finals, missed the first two months of the season recovering from a knee injury, and had only 14 live matches of experience before defeating Middletown junior Tucker Ziegler (42-2) in the semifinals.
"It feels great. I've worked hard enough to get here," said Smith, who placed third in the state last year. "Even when I wasn't wrestling (live) I was still wrestling. In the gym, weights, drilling ... when you're off for that long it's tough."
In an all Howard County 120-pound championship, Beck will take on Mt. Hebron junior Jeff Hayden. Beck defeated Hayden by close decisions in both the county and regional finals.
Reservoir senior Mason Kilcarr will wrestle North Hagerstown senior Hunter Faith in the 132-pound championship one year after losing to Broadneck's Cameron Harrell in the regional and state finals.
Centennial sophomore Austin Kraisser (145) also gets another chance at a state title one year after falling in the state finals, but he'll have to beat undefeated North Hagerstown senior Brendon Colbert.
Wilde Lake senior Malik Jackson (152) will also have to defeat an unbeaten wrestler, Churchill senior Hunter Sutton (46-0), in order to win a coveted state championship.
Howard senior Jared Rodriguez defeated Reservoir nemesis Wes Beattie in overtime in the semifinals, repeating history from the county championships two weeks ago.
River Hill's Kirby, who also lost in the state finals last year, will attempt to win his first state title against undefeated Roosevelt senior Casey Wokocha (25-0).
River Hill's Daniel, who has won 87 straight matches heading into his state championship match against Northern-Calvert senior Kyle Lamond (32-1), is attempting to become River Hill's third two-time state champion, joining Scott Mantua and coach Brandon Lauer, who won three during his undefeated career.
Marriotts Ridge senior Chris Park (195), Mt. Hebron junior Connor Strunk (152), River Hill senior Sebastian Ames (170) and Reservoir senior Wes Beattie (182) all lost in the state semifinals.
2A/1A state championship matches
160: Oakland Mills junior Jaron Smith (14-1) vs. Century senior Wes Dantzler (36-3)
4A/3A state championship matches
120: River Hill senior Michael Beck (44-2) vs. Mt. Hebron junior Jeff Hayden (36-5)
132: Reservoir senior Mason Kilcarr (35-1) vs. North Hagerstown junior Hunter Faith (39-2)
145: Centennial sophomore Austin Kraisser (37-1) vs. North Hagerstown senior Brendon Colbert (43-0)
152: Wilde Lake senior Malik Jackson (38-2) vs. Churchill senior Hunter Sutton (46-0)
182: Howard senior Jared Rodriguez (40-3) vs. North Hagerstown senior JD McKoy (42-1)
195: River Hill senior Logan Kirby (45-1) vs. Roosevelt senior Casey Wokocha (25-0)
220: River Hill senior Cory Daniel (45-0) vs. Northern-Calvert senior Kyle Lamond (32-1)
2A/1A state semifinal results
160: Oakland Mills junior Jaron Smith (14-1) dec. Middletown junior Tucker Ziegler (42-2), 6-2.
195: Smithsburg sophomore Bryce Scott (34-2) maj. Marriotts Ridge senior Chris Park (40-3), 12-4.
4A/3A state semifinal results
120: River Hill senior Michael Beck (44-2) dec. Northwest senior Nick Davis (34-3), 7-3.
120: Mt. Hebron junior Jeff Hayden (36-5) dec. Damascus freshman Brendan Parent (38-6), 10-6.
132: Reservoir senior Mason Kilcarr (34-1) dec. Perry Hall senior D.J. Grindle (35-6), 11-4.
145: Centennial sophomore Austin Kraisser (37-1) pin Stephen Decatur senior Nick Bennett (34-5), 4:23.
152: Churchill senior Hunter Sutton (46-0) dec. Mt. Hebron junior Connor Strunk (36-5), 5-0.
152: Wilde Lake senior Malik Jackson (38-2) dec. Dulaney senior Jacob Asher (40-4), 5-0.
170: Thomas Stone junior Ryan Sharp (29-5) dec. River Hill senior Sebastian Ames (38-8), 3-1.
182: Howard senior Jared Rodriguez (40-3) dec. Reservoir senior Wes Beattie (34-5), 5-3 OT.
195: River Hill senior Logan Kirby (45-1) dec. Sherwood senior Robby Happy (23-2), 3-1 OT.
220: River Hill senior Cory Daniel (45-0) maj. Stephen Decatur senior Ethan Eibl (31-6), 14-2.