Eighteen Baltimore-area wrestlers advanced to the finals of the Maryland Public Secondary School Athletic Association wrestling state tournament on Saturday at The Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro.
Glenelg leads all local teams with four wrestlers in the finals in 1A/2A — juniors Jared Thomas (132 pounds) and Sam Alsheimer (182) and seniors Max Sotka (170) and Robbie Baxter (220) — while Dunbar (freshman Jalen Jones, 132, and junior Jorden Pryor, 285) and Owings Mills (sophomores Alex Dufour, 106, and Phil Smith 120) have two.
C. Milton Wright also has a pair of finalists — freshman James Riviera (120) and senior Wyatt Graham (220) — in the 3A/4A tournament.
Other area grapplers in the finals are: Eastern Tech’s Ryan Wagener (126, 1A/2A), Sparrows Point’s Syler Minutelli (145, 1A/2A), Centennial’s Jason Kraisser (145, 3A/4A), Old Mill’s Robbie Fleming (152, 3A/4A), Patterson Mill’s Hunter Crowley (182, 1A/2A), Western Tech’s Ike Kalu (195, 1A/2A), South River’s Ka’Ron Lewis (heavyweight, 3A/4A) and Mt. Hebron’s Nick Nordhausen (heavyweight, 3A/4A).
Despite being one of the most dominant teams in the area, Glenelg is looking to crown its first state champion since Sean Twigg in 2013. Coach Matt Bichner, who won a state title in a Gladiators singlet, said he was impressed with his team’s semifinal round considering three of the four finalists won overtime decisions in the round.
“It’s been a while,” he said. “We’ve been close and we have had guys we thought could do it. We’re hoping now we have all four guys get their name on the wall.”
Alsheimer (17-1) said he came too far to lose in his semifinal match. The junior had two leg surgeries in September and missed the majority of the regular season, but he has made the most of his return to the mat by winning his second Howard County and regional title. He picked up two falls and then overcame a third-period deficit and beat Dunbar’s Dwayne Johnson, 5-3, in overtime to reach the championship match, where he will face Crowley.
“That’s what was going through my head at the end of the match, I’ve come too far to get here and go down in the semifinals,” Alsheimer said. “It wouldn’t be right.”
Thomas (40-3) beat Owings Mills’ regional champion and returning state finalist Tyson McDuffy in the quarterfinals and then made quick work of Oakdale’s Wyatt McKoy with a 54 second pin in the semifinals. Thomas will face Jones, who came from behind to defeat North Harford’s Josh Mitchell, 14-9, in the other semifinal, for the 1A/2A title.
Sotka (34-7) is in the finals for the second straight year, but he needed more than three overtime periods to get there. He pulled through by riding out Liberty’s Jake Griffin the entirety of the ultimate tiebreak period and won, 3-2. Sotka will wrestle Southern Garrett’s Joe Embleton in for the championship.
Baxter is one of the biggest surprises of the tournament. The regional runner-up won three straight decisions, including a 3-1 overtime match over Southern Garrett’s Hunter Park, to reach the final despite a season record of 33-11. He will square off with Boonsboro’s Tristen Cook in the final.
“Last year if you asked me if I’d be here today I would’ve thought you were crazy,” Baxter said. “It’s just, wow.”
Smith (44-0), Kraisser (38-0), Crowley (37-0), Graham (43-0) and Pryor (32-0) remained undefeated in their trek to the finals.
Smith made his semifinal victory over South Carroll state finalist Dakota Bowers look easy. The sophomore placed third at the 3A/4A state tournament last year competing for Franklin after losing in the semifinals but left no doubts this time, winning a 16-7 major decision.
“I’m trying to prove I’m one of the best wrestlers in the state and I can compete on a national level,” said Smith, who will face North Caroline’s Ryan Bauer for the title.
Kraisser won three first-period falls to reach the finals, as the junior seeks his third state title in as many years. He will take on Huntingtown’s Josh Stokes for the title.
“I’m just going out there and battling the whole time,” said Kraisser, who is looking to win his family’s 11th state championship adding to titles by his father Cliff (one) and brothers Nathan (four) and Austin (three). “I’m wrestling tough the whole time, keeping my composure and keeping a positive mindset.”
Crowley and Pryor, a defending state champion for the Poets who will face Damascus’ Elijah Baisden in the final, picked up two falls and a decision in the semifinals. Graham is in the finals for the second straight year and will wrestle Walt Whitman’s John-Luke Iglesias in the championship.
Dufour (41-2) cruised to a 10-2 major decision over Mountain Ridge’s Jesse Fresh in his semifinal and will Damascus freshman Michael Emerick in the final.
Riviera (43-1) showed that his dominant freshman campaign is no fluke, as he rolled over Magruder’s C.J. Cramma, 11-4, to advance to the final, where he will see Walter Johnson’s Kemper Stearns.
Sparrows Point senior Skyler Minutelli (42-3) won a tight 2-1 decision over Southern Garrett’s Jace Guy in the semifinal, while Old Mill four-time county champion Robbie Fleming (32-4) won three straight decisions — the latter two by one point — to advance to the final.
Wagener (42-1) won his semifinal by sticking River Hill’s Will Henrickson in 3:41.
Kalu (31-1) beat North Caroline’s Alex Grable, 10-1, in the semifinals.
Nordhausen (42-1) held off Kenwood’s Dylan Budka for a 3-2 decision and will face South River’s Ka’Ron Lewis (36-6), who won a 5-2 decision over Edgewood’s Daviyon Johnson, for the championship.
The consolation finals are set for 4:30 p.m. Monday with the finals set to begin at 7 p.m.