Three months ago, Reservoir sophomore Sam Rowell (152) thought that his wrestling season was over before it ever started. But now he is wrestling in the state semifinals.
After undergoing shoulder surgery in the offseason, the defending county and regional champion was told by doctors that he might be able to return in February, or that he might have to wait until his junior year to wrestle again.
"In the beginning I didn't think I could make it back," said Rowell, who resumed live wrestling a week before the county tournament. "I've been out of shape but I've been working. I've got guys like Mason (Kilcarr), in the room, Wesley (Beattie), always pushing me."
Rowell placed third at the Howard County tournament, with his only loss coming to eventual county champion Joe Kendrick of Mt. Hebron. At the regional tournament last week he lost to Kendrick again, in the consolation semifinals, but took fourth to make it back to the state tournament.
"Every week — countys, regions and states — I've been getting better and better every match. I've been getting a little more in shape," said Rowell, who has three tiny scars on his shoulder as a result of the surgery.
On Friday at the state wrestling tournament at the University of Maryland, Rowell defeated Walt Whitman's Jake Calder, 10-3, in the opening round, and then defeated Thomas Stone's Ryan Sharp in the quarterfinals, 6-0.
He'll now wrestle 3A/4A East regional champion Sam Ziff of Severna Park in Saturday morning's state semifinal round.
"It doesn't matter about this injury. I came back and I'm still aiming for that state title," he said. "I'm just amazed by this opportunity God gave me. It's awesome. My dad (Dan) is coaching me. I didn't think I'd get this far. I'm excited to be at states."
Rowell also gave credit to his older brother, Mount St. Joseph senior Seth, for helping him get back on the mat.
"At home we have a wrestling match downstairs, and he's always pushing me," Sam Rowell said. "My brother has always pushed me to be number one."
Reservoir's Mason Kilcarr also advanced to the semis.
River Hill, the 3A/4A East regional team champion, led Howard County schools in the team standings after the first two rounds, sitting in third place with 27.5 points. Urbana was in first with 53.5 points and Northern was in second with 30.
The Hawks advanced undefeated county and regional champions Cory Daniel (195) and Logan Kirby (220) into the state semifinals, but three other River Hill wrestlers — Michael Beck (106), Taariq Mohammed (113) and Brian Kirby (182) — lost in the quarterfinals.
All three were county champions, and Beck was undefeated coming into his quarterfinal match against Westminster freshman Ryan Eckenbarger. Beck was caught on his back midway through the second period.
Fifth-place Mt. Hebron (24) leads all Howard County schools with three semifinalists: Jeff Hayden (106), Joe Kendrick (152) and Ryan Hassan (220).
Seventh place Wilde Lake has two wrestlers still alive in the championship bracket: two-time county champion Malik Jackson (145) and undefeated senior Tola Morakinyo (170).
Centennial freshman Austin Kraisser will meet Urbana senior Nick Frank in Saturday morning's state semifinals, and Hammond's Bryan Overton will face off against North Calvert's undefeated Eric Hoffman.
The semifinal round is scheduled for 11 a.m., with the state championships scheduled for 6:30 p.m.
3A/4A state semifinal matches involving Howard County wrestlers
106: Mt. Hebron sophomore Jeff Hayden (35-7) vs. Urbana freshman Jake Makosy (37-2)
132: Reservoir junior Mason Kilcarr (35-3) vs. Bethesda Chevy Chase senior Will Witkop (15-3)
138: Centennial freshman Austin Kraisser (37-3) vs. Urbana senior Nick Frank (41-2)
145: Wilde Lake junior Malik Jackson (31-6) vs. Chopticon senior Larry Cannon (36-3)
152: Reservoir sophomore Sam Rowell (8-2) vs. Severna Park senior Sam Ziff (38-4)
152: Mt. Hebron senior Joe Kendrick (33-4) vs. North Point senior Andrew Lohr (34-14)
160: Hammond senior Bryan Overton (38-3) vs. North Calvert senior Eric Hoffman (36-0)
170: Wilde Lake senior Tola Morakinyo (38-0) vs. Oxen Hill senior Darrian Hollings (34-5)
195: River Hill junior Cory Daniel (40-0) vs. Winston Churchill senior Matt Schleckser (37-11)
220: Mt. Hebron junior Ryan Hassan (36-4) vs. Northwest senior Luis Beteta (38-0)
220: River Hill junior Logan Kirby (35-0) vs. Quince Orchard junior Connor Tilton (31-5)
Top 3A/4A team standings (after quarterfinal round)
1. Urbana, 53.5
2. Northern, 30
3. River Hill, 27.5
4. Bethesda Chevy Chase, 27
5. Mt. Hebron, 24
6. Huntingtown, 22
7. Wilde Lake, 21