No. 11 River Hill couldn't wait to get to the Keaser Classic wrestling tournament Friday at North County. Early in the week, Hawks coach Brandon Lauer was already talking eagerly about seeing how his team would match up with No. 4 Winters Mill, No. 10 Century and the host Knights.
Urged on by Lauer's intensity, River Hill swept through its first day of the dual-match tournament, beating North County, 39-26, blowing through Mervo, 78-4, and closing out the evening with a 66-7 triumph over Bishop McNamara.
The Hawks expect to face a stiffer challenge Saturday in the tournament's top bracket, which includes Winters Mill, Century and Wilde Lake.
"We knew North County would be strong in the upper weights, so it was important for us to get a good start early," said River Hill senior Jack Noonan, who pinned his 152-pound opponent in 3:34 in that match. "This was my first match, and I had butterflies. But I was confident the things coach Lauer taught us in the [wrestling] room would push us through."
Noonan, who is wrestling his first full season for River Hill, said he is benefiting from the Classic.
"I'm not close to a fully accomplished wrestler," he said. "So just watching all these teams, I can learn. I'm seeing some moves I want to take back to our wrestling room and work on in practice."
Wilde Lake went 3-0 against Harford Tech, Liberty and Oxon Hill. Century defeated Hammond, and then Hammond beat a developing Western Tech team, 54-17. Western Tech is under the direction of new coach Juan Solera.
"A tournament like this really builds a lot of strength and character," Solera said. "We'll learn from this and build on it. We'll have a lot to work on Monday when we get back to practice. We don't have many teams the caliber of Hammond in our league. This is probably as bad as it gets."
Helping teams prepare for the dual meet season and postseason is among the reasons North County coach Wayne Liddick started the tournament three years ago. Each year it has grown, going from six to 12 to 16 teams.
"I try to get the best teams I can," Liddick said. "Most schools don't want to wrestle the same competition within their counties over and over again. So this allows them to see a lot of different competition. Today, we lost to River Hill. It told me we're not ready for River Hill.
"But it also told me our good kids are better than theirs. We lost two or three close matches, and I learned our kids weren't quite ready. It also showed me what we have to work on. The goal is to be ready for the county, regional and state tournaments."
Among the teams that looked ready Friday was Winters Mill. The Falcons beat Eleanor Roosevelt, 65-12, Leonardtown, 54-18, and Bishop McNamara, 69-3.
"I think we're picking up where we left off last season," Winters Mill coach John Lowe said. "We're on a roll. We have to keep the train going. Stay healthy and stay smart, and we'll be OK."
No. 11 River Hill 39, North County 26
106 – Beck (RH) p Benietz (NC) (1:20)
113 – Mohammed (RH) d March (NC), 7-3
120 – Carter (RH) d McMullen (NC), 6-5
126 – Linden (RH) p Lane (NC), (:54.2)
132 – Montz (NC) p Lee (RH), (:58)
138 – Kirby (RH) d Bieman (NC), 9-5
145 – Boyd (NC) d Guthier (RH), 8-5
152 – Noonan (RH) p Jones (NC), (3:34)
160 – Alexander (NC) tf Delore (RH), 15-0
170 – Daniel (RH) p Lawier (NC), (2:45)
182 – Masallem (RH) p Dylan (NC), (:51)
195 – Ballard (NC) wins by forfeit
220 – Hyde (NC) d Benedict (RH), 3-2
285 – Maddox (NC) d Johnson (RH), 10-5