Brad Walsh’s reward for staying sharp and not letting his first loss of the season eat at him was, well, eating.
Oh, a third-place medal at the state tournament certainly meant something to Westminster’s all-time wins leader. Walsh came back after a disappointing one-point defeat in the Class 4A-3A semifinals Saturday to post two more wins, the final of his high school career.
Monday’s consolation final went to Walsh, 6-4 over Urbana’s Shane Acton at Show Place Arena, and he finished the season at 50-1.
Time to dine.
“Oh, we’re going to Golden Corral,” Walsh said after his match. “It may not be the best meal, but it’s going to be a lot of it.”
Carroll didn’t have a state finalist competing Monday night, meaning the county’s streak of at least one champion every year since 1983 came to an end. Of the 16 Carroll wrestlers who entered the state tournament, only four remained and all four competed in the consolation finals round.
Walsh won his final bout, as did South Carroll sophomore Dakota Bowers (120) in the fifth-place match on the 2A-1A side. Liberty senior Jake Griffin (160) placed fourth, and Winters Mill senior Alex Miller (220) finished sixth.
The county might have been without a state champ, but that didn’t deter Carroll’s remaining quartet from trying to close out with a win.
Walsh lost 7-6 to Leonardtown’s John Podsednik in the semifinals but had to wrestle again Saturday evening, and notched a win to reach the third-place bout.
Then came a day away from the mat, which Walsh said proved to be a challenge.
“Having Sunday to reflect wasn’t very good,” Walsh said. “I kind of sat around. I made sure I got a run in, just for my own sanity.”
A fresher Walsh scored first on Acton and controlled the match — he led 5-1 in the third period and slipped away for an escape with a few seconds remaining to preserve the win.
It went down as No. 160 for Walsh’s career, and Owls coach Mike Flemming said his senior had more than motivation to finish strong.
“It’s one of the hardest things in the world to do,” Flemming said. “You see a lot of guys lose in the semis and then end up going all the way down to fifth or sixth. The fact that Brad was able to finish … with his hand raised, I couldn’t be prouder for him.”
Carroll’s other winner Monday was Bowers (40-4), who dominated Glenelg’s Kevin Hansberger 15-0 to close out his sophomore season.
Bowers found himself on the mat just after the consolation final round began at 4:30, and he wasted little time scoring. Bowers worked a tilt in the latter half of the third period to get his technical fall and add a state placewinner to this season’s resume, one that included county and 2A-1A West titles.
“It was pretty easy,” Bowers said about being prepared Monday. “The main thing was to just get the win, be where you wanted.”
Griffin, like Walsh before him, wanted nothing more than to end the season — and his career — with a third-place finish. But the Lions senior soon discovered Damascus senior Ben Lokos wanted the same thing.
Griffin’s escape early in the third period tied the score at 1-1, and the match went to overtime — just as his championship semifinal did against Glenelg’s Max Sotka (Sotka won in triple OT).
Griffin (42-4) and Lokos traded escapes in the first two overtimes, but Lokos’ escape to start the third ended the bout. Griffin fell 3-2, and dealt with another triple-OT defeat, but said he was pleased with his best finish at the state tourney.
“It’s definitely a huge improvement,” said Griffin, whose wrestling career ended with 129 wins, second most in Liberty history. “I knew it was my last match ever, so I had to go out there and give it my all.”
Miller (33-11) did his best to soak in his first state tournament experience, one that ended with the WM senior landing on the podium. He got pinned late in the third period by Southern Garrett’s Hunter Park, but Miller took the loss in stride.
He also took home some physical memories in the form of a black eye and some abrasions across his face and forehead.
“The biggest challenge for me was … not letting my head get to me,” said Miller, who won a county title and placed fourth in the region. “Just focusing on the fact that this is just like any other tournament. Every match is like every other match.”
Miller sported a bleach-blonde mop of hair for states, something he said Winters Mill chose to do as a team during the postseason. Miller too said he’d be enjoying a stress-free meal now that wrestling season is over, although cutting weight isn’t that much of a problem for the big man.
Miller said he’s just happy for the experience to end his career.
“I went from … just trying not to get pinned, to going out there and being the one trying to get the pin,” he said. “My technique has skyrocketed, my stamina and strength has gone through the roof. I don’t feel gassed going into the second period. I feel on my game.”