So far, 2014 has been a very good year for the Mt. Hebron wrestling program. Longtime Vikings coach Todd DeCrispino, who also coached at Centennial, earned his 200th dual-meet win. And on Saturday, at the Franklin Invitational, the Vikings crowned a pair of champions — junior Connor Strunk (152 pounds) and senior Ryan Hassan (220) — and finished fourth out of 17 teams.
Centennial sophomore Austin Kraisser (145) won his second Franklin Invitational title.
It was the first high school tournament championship for both Strunk and Hassan. Strunk had finished second at the same tournament in each of the past two years.
"This was a good first," said Strunk, who lost to Centennial's Nathan Kraisser, a four-time state champion, at Franklin as a freshman. "I came off of shoulder surgery this offseason, I've been hitting the weight room pretty hard, I feel stronger ... it feels pretty good."
Strunk defeated a familiar opponent, Centennial's Sameh Boulos, in the Franklin finals, 3-2. Last Saturday, Strunk defeated Boulos in a dual meet, 1-0.
"It was pretty much the same type of match. One point and I had to ride him out for the last period," said Strunk, a two-time Howard County finalist. "It was all mental toughness, I guess. When it drags out like that it gets to you. I definitely had to work for it."
Hassan also had to work for his Franklin Invitational title, scoring a takedown with 10 seconds left in the second period and holding on to defeat Western Tech's Necho Freeman, 3-1.
"It's the first time I've ever been seeded first. The kid was a lot stronger than me so I just had to out-technique him," Hassan said. "I saw him cross his leg on one back step, so I just waited for the push/pull. There was the step, hooked it right up. Just taking advantage of what he was giving me."
Centennial's Austin Kraisser made short work of Eastern Tech's Dallas Prater in the finals, securing the pin with 17 seconds left in the first period.
"I just worked from the top, and I tried to get a turk. He turned the other way, and I just caught him as he rolled back, squeezed and got the pin," said Kraisser, a state finalist last year as a freshman. "I'm definitely not as nervous as my freshman year. I feel like I have a little more experience at the high school level, rather than junior leagues. It's a little more reassuring."
Kraisser also bulked up this year for football. He led the Eagles with 82 tackles.
"I definitely lifted more in season for football because I was pretty small on the football field, so that was definitely a help getting stronger," said Kraisser, whose only loss this season is to Bishop McNamara's Beast of the East champion Alfred Bannister in the Mount Mat Madness finals.
Mt. Hebron sophomore Josh Kendrick placed second at the Franklin Invitational, losing to Franklin's LJ Bell, 7-4, in the 113-pound finals. Jeff Hayden (126), a 2013 state finalist, finished third, losing to the eventual champion, Hereford's Anthony Genco, in the semifinals but coming back to score a tech-fall over Owings Mills' Jacob Rendelman in the third-place match.
"Three of the top four placed second in the state last year. It was a very tough weight class," DeCrispino said. "Jeff wrestled well. He was disappointed that he lost in the semis but came back and had a phenomenal match in the consolation finals against the No. 1 seed."
River Hill takes second at Iron Horse Duals
River Hill crammed nine matches into two days this weekend at the Catoctin Iron Horse Duals, and the Hawks flourished under the pressure, finishing 8-1 to claim second place.
River Hill's only setback was a 55-24 loss to Damascus, which won the tournament.
The Hawks' wins came against Lackey (34-27), Catoctin (41-30), Frederick (78-3), Fairfield (66-17), Mountain Ridge (36-28), Tuscarora (64-15), Boonsboro (72-12) and Liberty (71-12).
Michael Beck (120, 5 pins), Logan Kirby (195, 3 pins) and Cory Daniel (220, 7 pins) each finished undefeated for the Hawks.