Glenelg senior heavyweight Sean Twigg has big shoes to fill this season — his own.
After wrestling varsity for the first time last season and winning a 1A/2A state title, Twigg — who has committed to wrestle for the University of Maryland next year — has a tough act to follow.
"He's really competitive. He's taken it up a notch. He knows that his job is more than just being one of the best wrestlers on the team, he knows that he has to be a leader as well to the younger guys this season," coach Chris Rosas said.
Last year, Twigg finished the season 37-5. Three of those losses were to River Hill's Jason Johnson, and two were to LaPlata's Jon Boarman. Johnson defeated Boarman for the 3A/4A heavyweight state title, and both were seniors.
So while improving on his junior season record is a strong possibility, his senior goal, as stated immediately after winning last year's title, is simple: to "win states." By doing so, Twigg could become the fourth Howard County heavyweight to win multiple state titles.
Long known for its prowess at the opposite end of the weight spectrum — 27 local wrestlers have won state titles at less than 120 pounds — Howard County is beginning to earn a reputation for its formidable upperweights.
That is partly due to necessity, says Rosas. In 2002, the heaviest three weight classes were 171, 189 and 275. There are now five weight classes of 170 pounds or heavier: 170, 182, 195, 220 and 285.
"Adding new weight classes up top forces the coaches to get out there and recruit those offensive linemen," Rosas said.
No team has been better at farming the football field than defending county, region and state tournament champion River Hill. Thanks in part to B.J. Benning, a former heavyweight county champ for River Hill, and an assistant coach on both the wrestling and football teams, eight members of River Hill's state champion football team will also wrestle, including returning state placewinners Cory Daniel and Logan Kirby. They'll also be joined by Justin Nestor at heavyweight after his dominant season as a two-way lineman.
"This is the most football players I've ever had on my roster," coach Brandon Lauer said. "They just went through a great season and it doesn't hurt to bring that attitude and mentality into the wrestling room."
Howard County returns considerable talent this season, including almost 70 county placewinners, but there will be a great void left by Centennial's Nathan Kraisser (now at North Carolina) and Oakland Mills' Tony Farace (now at Kutztown), who won a combined seven state titles over the past four years.
"Howard County graduated probably two of its best wrestlers ever, but there's still a lot of talent," Reservoir coach Andrew McIntyre said. "Any team that comes out of Howard County can go far at states."
While Nathan Kraisser, Howard County's first ever four-time state champ, has moved on to become a Tarheel, Centennial freshman Austin Kraisser is ready to carry on the family name. Wrestling at 138 pounds (Nathan wrestled as a freshman at 103), Austin faces a unique challenge going against juniors and seniors at the middle weights.
"He's got a tougher road ahead of him but he wants to do all the same things that Nathan did," coach Dave Roogow said. "He's in the weight room everyday."
And Austin Kraisser has already proven what he's capable of by becoming a standout starter on Centennial's varsity football team.
"Austin wrestles everywhere, all the time, against anyone, and he trains as hard as anyone," said Lauer. "The pressure comes from Austin that he puts on himself. He's wrestled for a long time."
Along with Glenelg and River Hill, Mt. Hebron, Oakland Mills, Reservoir and Wilde Lake are also expected to be contenders in the team competition this season.
The league season begins Thursday, Dec. 6, at 5:30 PM with the following matches: Atholton at Mt. Hebron, Glenelg at Howard, Hammond at Reservoir, Long Reach at Century, Oakland Mills at Wilde Lake and River Hill at Marriotts Ridge.
Scroll to the bottom for a complete schedule of 2012-2013 tournaments involving Howard County teams.
After three seasons as head coach at Hammond, Jason Freiert has stepped down due to work and family obligations. Patrick Kepp, who wrestled for Glenelg in 2005, is the new head coach, but assistant Ryan Mackin, a former state champ for the Golden Bears, will still be part of the program.
Kepp, who is finishing a business administration degree at Towson, works for State Farm and as a high school and college football official.
Glenelg Country not only gets a new head coach, but a new program. Doug Jesse, who was a two-time high school state finalist in Ohio and wrestled collegiately for Cornell, brings an impressive résumé to the school, having coached two college programs — Division I Wagner and Division II Tiffin — before he was 30. Jesse, who has a pair of Master's degrees in education, is a teacher at the school.
The Dragons wrestled a JV season last year as preparation for this winter's MIAA B Conference debut.
Wilde Lake's Azmar Hagler left last season to help his former wrestler, Zach Brown, kick off his career in the NFL, but he left the program in capable hands. Former Hammond head coaches Jeff Starnes and Bill Smith took the program over midway through last season, and have more than 20 years of combined head coaching experience between 1983 and 1998.
"We're just excited to get a full year with these guys. It was nice for us to knock the cobwebs off (last year)," Starnes said.
In this corner...
*County champion; ^JV county champion
Last season: 4-7 league, 15-13 overall, sixth at county tournament
Coach: Bruce Lindblad, second season (16th overall)
Top returners: Senior Pat Mullens* (170); juniors Phil Frazier (138) and Brian Rodriguez (195); sophomore Josh Pickens (126).
Top newcomers: Senior Sam Bernard (138); juniors Houston Brown (120), Zac Smith (152) and Chris Davis (285); sophomores Sean Divver (113), Alec Lewin (120) and Scott DeJames (132).
Key losses: Matt Fields (182), Payam Sojdehei (285), Emilio Altamirano (160), Ashton Stennett (152) and Dan Shin (138).
Non-league opponents: at Bel Air, Jan. 11; at Harford Tech, Feb. 1.
The gameplan: The Raiders have only 24 wrestlers in the room, but they got a good booster crop this year, including a junior heavyweight who is every bit of 285 pounds, Davis, and three transfers: Brown, Divver and Lewin. Mullens, who won 28 matches including a county title last year, is the team's best athlete. Matt Fields, a 30-match winner who would have wrestled in the upperweights, moved to Florida.
Bonus point: The 14th annual Atholton JV tournament, one of the best JV tournaments in the state, will be held Dec. 8 at Atholton.
Last season: 2-9, 2-12, seventh at county tournament
Coach: David Roogow, sixth season
Top returners: Senior Nick Shearin (160); juniors Hutson Baumann (145) and Sam Boulos (152).
Top newcomers: Junior Matt Nickell (120); sophomore Sam Routt (126); freshman Austin Kraisser (138).
Key losses: Nathan Kraisser (126), Joey Wysocki (160) and Benjamin Tucker (170).
Non-league opponents: at Arundel, Dec. 14; at John Carroll, Dec. 20; at Southern, Jan. 31.
The gameplan: Because of his pedigree, Kraisser is the team's most intriguing wrestler, but he's not the only Eagles attraction. Boulos, Baumann and Shearin all won double digit matches last year, and have worked hard in the offseason. Roogow was also impressed by the strides made by Nickell and Routt in the offseason, and he likes that many of his best wrestlers are clustered between 120 and 160.
Bonus point: Nathan Kraisser won the NC State Wolfpack Open in early November, and heading into winter break, is 15-3 with four pins and four major decisions as North Carolina's freshman 125-pounder.
Last season: 10-1, 18-7, 1A/2A South dual meet and tournament regional champion, county dual meet and tournament runner-up
Coach: Chris Rosas, third season
Top returners: Seniors Ryan Carter (138), Anthony Pagnotta (170) and Sean Twigg (285); juniors Austin Pagnotta (145) and Joe Zoller (152); sophomore Tim Null (106/112).
Top newcomers: Sophomore Austin Twigg (182/195); freshman Parker Griffie (113/120).
Key losses: Justin Jung (220), Glenn Lucas (182), Tyler Asher (170) and Ricky Gezelle (120).
Non-league opponents: at LaPlata, Jan. 10.
The gameplan: The Gladiators, who have won four dual meet county titles since 2007, are looking good again this winter. Along with the senior leadership of Carter, Pagnotta and Twigg — who combined for 100 wins last year — Glenelg got another influx of new talent. Twigg's younger brother, Austin, is coming off of a 60-pound growth spurt, and wants to make his own name. Griffie had an impressive junior league career as a Warhawk, and has developed a good practice room rivalry with Null.
Bonus point: Anthony Pagnotta, a face-off specialist, has committed to play Division I college lacrosse for Towson University next year.
Hammond Golden Bears
Last season: 3-8, 14-14, eighth at county tournament, New Town Duals champion
Coach: Patrick Kepp, first season
Top returners: Seniors Bryan Overton (160), Josh Thibodeaux (170) and Humphrey Anuh (195); junior Evan Nuss (132).
Top newcomers: Junior Xavier Reese (145); sophomore Anthony Solis (138); freshman Darren Ketchum (120/126).
Key losses: Jonathan Goodwin (145), Raven Coleman-Brooks (152), Wilson Low (132), Michael Waters (182) and Melvin Iwukuoa (220).
Non-league opponents: Catonsville, Dec. 20; at Bel Air, Feb. 1.
The gameplan: The Golden Bears will have to overcome the graduation of a talented senior class, including state finalist Jonathan Goodwin, and the loss of county finalist Raven Coleman-Brooks, who moved out of state, along with a coaching transition. But with a rich wrestling tradition and several strong returners, Hammond is not looking to just lay down this year. Overton (42 wins last season) is one of the best wrestlers in the state, and Anuh, a returning county finalist and 27-match winner, is capable of big things as well.
Bonus point: Goodwin scored 63 out of a possible 66 county dual meet points last season, with 23 pins and a county-best 105 takedowns.
Last season: 1-10, 14-14, 10th at county tournament
Coach: Shea Conway, second season
Top returners: Seniors Robert Bruffey (138) and Drew Williams (160/170); junior Jared Rodriguez (182); sophomores Nick Williams (120) and Bryan Crumback (132).
Top newcomers: Junior Isaiah Haley (145).
Key losses: Mike Frazier (285), Kyle Eckart (170), Nick Loiselle (182) and Zach Hedglin (145).
Non-league opponents: at Carver Vo-Tech, Dec. 14; at Manchester Valley, Jan. 30.
The gameplan: Although the Lions have a healthy 32 wrestlers in the room, many of them are inexperienced freshmen who will need some seasoning on JV, so the varsity may have to forfeit the lightweight classes in the early going. New assistant coach Tyler Bulger, a county champ for Howard in 2007, will be a big help in getting the newcomers up to speed. Nick Williams, Crumback and Bruffey are the team's most well rounded wrestlers, and put in a good deal of work in the offseason, while Rodriguez showed a lot of toughness on the football field. Haley, who was recruited to the team by Drew Williams, is a raw talent who could help the varsity by the end of the winter.
Bonus point: Crumback's fifth place finish at the county tournament last year was best among Lions' returners.
Long Reach Lightning
Last season: 0-11, 1-17, 12th at county tournament
Coach: Joseph Novotny, third season
Top returners: Senior Ronald Hindman (113); juniors Christian Ritchie (106), Diego Galindo (138), Konnor Kick (145) and Dan Casey (182); sophomore Josh Pitaniello (126).
Top newcomers: Senior Chris Stewart (285); juniors Troy Roundtree (195) and Deon Williams (220); sophomore Jacob Kim (170).
Key losses: Jay Rathod (130)
Non-league opponents: at Century, Dec. 6; at Glenelg Country, Dec. 13.
The gameplan: Things are definitely looking up at Long Reach, which hasn't won a league match in more than six seasons. The Lightning have 30 wrestlers in the room, or almost twice what they had at this time last year, and could have close to a full varsity line-up, which is something they haven't had in years. Hindman, who won 24 matches including several at the state tournament last year, gives them a legitimate talent. Williams, a transfer from Meade, brings significant experience to Long Reach, having placed second at last year's District V JV Tournament.
Bonus point: Kick, Kim, Casey, Roundtree, Williams and Stewart all played football for the Lightning.
Marriotts Ridge Mustangs
Last season: 6-5, 13-13, 11th at county tournament
Coach: Jason Conley, eighth season
Top returners: Seniors Nick Spano (126/132), Michael Min (160), Lyle Fugate (170) and Ryan Austin (285); juniors Michael Bernal (152) and Chris Park (195); sophomores Zach Moody (126/132) and V.J Stout (180-195).
Top newcomers: Freshmen Romtin Habibi (106) and Thomas Olson (120).
Key losses: Codi Parton (138), Jeff Barbera (106), Christian Jordan (120) and Justin Burkett (145).
Non-league opponents: Eleanor Roosevelt, Dec. 13; South Carroll, Feb. 2; Northeast, Feb. 4.
The gameplan: Numbers have never been a problem for the Mustangs, who once again have almost 40 wrestlers in the room, but some of their best wrestlers will be blocked behind other top returners until after the holiday break, when Conley gets more flexibility with weight allowances. As just a sophomore last year, Park impressed by winning 30 matches and a regional title. Spano, Moody and Fugate all won around 20 matches last year and will look to take the next step by qualifying for states this season. Wrestling at heavyweight last year, Austin won 25 matches and qualified for the state tournament. Stout injured his knee early in his promising freshman campaign, but was a decorated junior leaguer.
Bonus point: Fugate, who plans to play college football next year, had over 100 tackles for the Mustangs this fall.
Mt. Hebron Vikings
Last season: 6-5, 12-7, ninth at county tournament, Hebron Duals champion
Coach: Todd DeCrispino, sixth season (24th overall)
Top returners: Seniors Joe Kendrick (152) and Nick Lucchesi (160); junior Ryan Hassan (220); sophomores Jeff Hayden (113) and Connor Strunk (138).
Top newcomers: Freshman Josh Kendrick (106).
Key losses: Nawwal Ibad (152).
Non-league opponents: at Tuscarora, Dec. 20; at Eastern Tech, Jan. 10; at Catonsville with Winters Mill, Jan. 31.
The gameplan: Returning almost everyone from last year's team, and with at least one experienced wrestler at every weight class, the Vikings could be a surprise contender this season. In his fourth year as a varsity starter, Joe Kendrick — who has committed to wrestle for Millersville University — is looking to go out on top after winning 36 matches and placing at states for the first time last year. His younger brother, Josh, is one of the league's most experienced rookies. Strunk (29 wins last year) wrestled in Nathan Kraisser's shadow last season, but after bulking up two weight classes, he is capable of going deep in the state tournament. Hayden and Hassan combined to win more than 50 matches last season.
Bonus point: Last year the Vikings raised $4,000 for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and Johns Hopkins Children's Hospital in part by selling 'Mt. Hebron Wrestles Cancer' wrist bands. The $5 wrist bands can be purchased for this year's campaign from any Mt. Hebron wrestler.
Oakland Mills Scorpions
Last season: 9-2, 24-7, third at county tournament, District V Duals champion
Coach: Brad Howell, 15th season
Top returners: Seniors Zach Hensley* (120), Dominick Clarke (195) and Roy Kadje (285); juniors Anthony Ahumada (132) and Dylan Juskus (170); sophomore Jaron Smith (160).
Top newcomers: Sophomores Matt Claxton (138) and Bradley Montacino (152); freshman Dakota Thompson (106).
Key losses: Tony Farace (120), David Ulysse (152), Ryan Andrews (138), Tyrone Gaines (195) and Will Hester (220).
Non-league opponents: at Overlea, Dec. 13; at LaPlata, Jan. 10; at Catonsville, Jan. 31.
The gameplan: The Scorpions will have to get used to life after Farace and his 150 career wins, but Hensley is a great wrestler in his own right, entering this season with 104 career wins. A two-time defending county champ, Hensley is 82-5 over the past two seasons, having finished third and second at the state tournament. Smith (fifth) and Kadje (fourth), both 30-match winners last year, are also capable of going far again at the state tournament this season. Claxton was a JV county finalist last season.
Bonus point: Farace finished his illustrious Oakland Mills career with an incredible .968 winning percentage (150-5).
Last season: 8-3, 14-8, fourth at county tournament
Coach: Andrew McIntyre, third season
Top returners: Seniors Joe Quattrone (126/132) and Bryan Glueck (170); juniors Mason Kilcarr* (126/132), Hans Wicklein (120/126), Wes Beattie (160) and Michael Sullivan (195); sophomores Troy Kilcarr (113) and Sam Rowell* (152).
Top newcomers: Junior Tyler Ponton^ (106); sophomore Trent Kilcarr^ (120).
Key losses: Brian Beach (152), Brendan Herberger (160) and Pedro Iriarte (220).
Non-league opponents: at South River, Dec. 7; Meade, Jan. 10; at Stephen Decatur, Jan. 26.
The gameplan: The Gators were young last year, and they'll be just a little older this year, with only two seniors on varsity. The Gators will also be family-oriented once again, with three Kilcarrs and two Quattrones (Joe and Paul). Trent Kilcarr was forced to wrestle JV last season because of a logjam at the lower weights, but he was a legit varsity wrestler and will get a chance to prove that this season. Mason Kilcarr broke out with 38 wins and a county title last year, and is capable of finishing near the top of the state podium after lots of offseason work. Rowell, who was the Gators top wrestler last year with 42 wins and county and regional titles, has the looks of a state champ. Sullivan missed much of last season with an injury, but won a Greco-Roman state championship in the offseason and should be a county title contender. Wicklein, Beattie and Troy Kilcarr combined to win 70 matches last year.
Bonus point: Gators freshman AJ Strott may have trouble cracking the varsity line-up early on, but with a strong junior league background, he could have a briight future with Reservoir.
River Hill Hawks
Last season: 11-0, 32-7, county dual meet and tournament champion, 3A/4A state dual meet finalist and tournament champion
Coach: Brandon Lauer, seventh season
Top returners: Senior Taariq Mohammed (113); juniors Michael Beck (106), Cory Daniel* (182) and Logan Kirby* (195); sophomore Brian Kirby (160/170).
Top newcomers: Senior Justin Nestor (285); freshmen David Erskine (120), Sean Guthier (138) and Patrick Gover (145).
Key losses: Jason Johnson (285), Jacob Benedict (220), Omar Messallam (182), Jack Noonan (152) and Patrick Linden (126).
Non-league opponents: Northeast, Dec. 8; at Severna Park, Dec. 14; at Oakdale, Jan. 4.
The gameplan: Thanks to a great working relationship with the school's state championship football team, Lauer has his biggest team ever, both in terms of total weight and numbers, going three wrestlers deep at almost every weight class. After graduating state champion Jason Johnson, it looked like heavyweight might be an issue for the Hawks, but then Nestor, an all-county defensive lineman, joined teammates Brian (25 wins) and Logan Kirby (34), and Daniel (42), to give the team one of the best stables of upperweights in the state. Beck and Mohammed, who combined to win almost 80 matches last season, make the lower weights similarly strong down low. A trio of freshmen with good junior league experience — Erskine, Guthier and Gover — will help fill out the team's middle weights.
Bonus point: River Hill's 2011-12 heavyweight, Jason Johnson, and 2012-13 heavyweight, Justin Nestor, were linemates on the Hawks 2011 state champion football team.
Wilde Lake Wildecats
Last season: 6-5, 14-14, fifth at county tournament, Edgewood Tournament champion
Coach: Jeff Starnes, first season
Top returners: Seniors Daniel Andrews (126), Jordan Trinh (132), Tola Morakinyo (170) and Nate Haase (195); junior Malik Jackson* (145).
Top newcomers: Senior Adam Satterfield (182); juniors Noah Polonsky (113) and Tyler Anderson^ (138).
Key losses: Alex Polonsky (113)
Non-league opponents: at South Carroll, Dec. 5; Tuscarora, Jan. 31.
The gameplan: Like Centennial and Oakland Mills, Wilde Lake lost a great four-year wrestler in Alex Polonsky, who won a state title as a sophomore and finished with 139 career wins. But his younger brother, Noah, is back after a year off to help the Wildecats take the next step into the county's top tier. Wilde Lake's deep, experienced line-up is led by defending county champion and state-placewinner Jackson (33 wins), and county finalists Trinh (33 wins) and Morakinyo (35 wins, 3rd state). Satterfield and Anderson, both former JV champs, will get their chance to shine on varsity this season.
Bonus point: Ethan Eckley (120), Raheem Brown (152), Kris Gough (220) and Ne'co Jones (285) add to the Wildecats' depth, making them one of the deepest teams in the league.
Glenelg Country Dragons
Coach: Doug Jesse, first season
Top returners: Senior Jon Jones (170); juniors Matt Campbell (126) and Christian Vinyard (132); sophomores Adam Bothwell (106), Tucker Clay (138), Eddie Howlette (145) and Emanuel Curtis (195).
Top newcomers: Sophomore Ken Kim (132); freshmen Sam Smith (113), Reid Chaconas (132), Eric Wootton (138) and Demetrius Ravenell (182).
Non-league opponents: Long Reach, Dec. 13; Jemicy School, Jan. 9; at Boys Latin, Jan. 10; Mount Airy Christian, Jan. 22.
The gameplan: In their first varsity season, the Dragons have only 12 wrestlers. The good news is that they're spread out across nine weight classes. Jones is the team's only senior, but juniors Campbell and Vinyard should also be able to provide leadership in the program as it builds toward the future. Chaconas, a junior league state placewinner, Howlette, who wrestled on the Maryland Junior Olympic freestyle team this past summer, and Wootton are the most polished Dragons.
Bonus point: Campbell and Chaconas each pinned their opponents in a 39-33 loss to Mount Carmel Dec. 4, Glenelg Country's first varsity wrestling match in the history of the school.
Aberdeen Duals (Marriotts Ridge)
Scorpion Duals at Oakland Mills (Mt. Hebron)
War on the Shore hosted by Stephen Decatur (Centennial, Glenelg)
Atholton JV Tournament (Centennial, Hammond, Howard, Marriotts Ridge, Mt. Hebron, Reservoir, Wilde Lake, Glenelg Country)
Joppatowne Duals (Atholton)
Richard Montgomery Duals (Wilde Lake)
Oakdale Bear Cave Brawl Tournament (Reservoir)
North County Tournament (Hammond)
Charm City Duals hosted by Carver (Howard, Glenelg Country)
Warrior Duals at LaPlata (River Hill)
Francis Scott Key Tournament (Long Reach)
McDonogh Holiday Duals (River Hill, Wilde Lake)
District V Duals at Mt. Hebron (Atholton, Centennial, Howard, Long Reach, Oakland Mills)
Loch Raven Duals (Marriotts Ridge)
Northern Invitational (Hammond)
South River JV Tournament (Mt. Hebron, Wilde Lake)
Grapple at the Brook at Springbrook (Howard, Long Reach, Reservoir)
Franklin Duals (Centennial, Mt. Hebron, River Hill)
Battle at the Base at Meade (Marriotts Ridge)
Battle by the Bay at St. Michael's (Glenelg Country)
Dunbar Duals (Glenelg)
Overlea Invitational (Atholton, Oakland Mills)
North County JV Tournament (Atholton)
Dual meet regional tournament
MIAA Championships at Mount St. Joseph (Glenelg Country)
Dual meet state tournament at North Point High
Howard County Tournament (at Oakland Mills)
Meade JV Tournament (Howard, Mt. Hebron, River Hill)
1A/2A South regional tournament (at Marriotts Ridge)
3A/4A East regional tournament (at Wilde Lake)
State tournament (at University of Maryland's Cole Field House)