Carroll's wrestling tradition is rich, arguably the best in the state, but when it comes to postseason dual-meet tournaments the county's resume is somewhat short.
They've been around for more than 20 years now — former North Carroll coach Dick Bauerlein is considered the creator of the duals, which debuted in 1994. Seven of Carroll's eight schools have participated in a regional dual tourney (either Class 4A-3A or 2A-1A) at some point in their history, but only 19 times has a county team advanced to the state tournament. And Carroll has but three state dual-meet champions, with North Carroll taking the inaugural 2A-1A crown in 1994 and Winters Mill earning back-to-back 2A-1A titles in 2012-13.
South Carroll gets a chance to add to the county's history starting with tonight's 2A-1A West Region duals at Middletown High School.
The Cavaliers (12-2 in regular-season dual meets) earned the No. 2 seed in the four-team tourney, and they'll face No. 3 Boonsboro (12-2) in the semifinals at 5:30 p.m. Middletown, the top seed at 12-1, takes on Southern Garrett (11-2).
The semifinal winners meet in the finals at 7:30.
The Cavs wrapped up a second straight county championship last week when they defeated Winters Mill 42-30 at home, and they also secured a regional duals berth. SC coach Bryan Hamper pointed to his team's goal of peaking at the right time of the season, with county, regional, and state tournaments on the horizon.
But one of their losses came against Middletown, a 51-23 defeat in Winfield on Jan. 20.
"That's gravy, those are free matches," Hamper said about the Cavs being in the regional duals. "It's another opportunity for us to continue our season. We're excited about maybe having another crack at a team like Middletown. They beat us pretty bad, and it's our turn to try and return the favor."
Boonsboro (24-7 overall in duals) is enjoying its second winning season in program history and is making its first regional duals appearance. The Warriors went 3-1 against Carroll teams this season, but their loss came last Saturday against Manchester Valley. The Mavericks prevailed 39-36.
The Maryland State Wrestling Association includes two Boonsboro wrestlers in its latest 2A-1A rankings — junior Haven Huntsberry is sixth at 106 pounds, and sophomore Jeffrey Heline is sixth at 113.
The Cavaliers feature six wrestlers regionally ranked by the MSWA in junior Joey Thomas (first, 113), senior Tom Boldosser (fifth, 120), junior Jake Mackenzie (fourth, 132), senior Shane Conners (first, 152), junior Jamar Williams (first, 160), and senior Talmadge Eller (fourth, 182).
That seemingly gives South Carroll some balance, but in postseason duals, matchups are hyper-critical. Expect to see some maneuvering if either team thinks points are needed at certain weight classes.
Plus, the Cavaliers have a pair of reigning state champions in Thomas (42-0) and Williams (41-1), while Conners, who broke the county's all-time wins record earlier this season, is unbeaten at 42-0 with 37 pins.
Middletown boasts seven wrestlers ranked by the MSWA — junior Danny Bertoni (first, 132), sophomore Josh Paige (second, 138), junior Adam Bain (second, 145), sophomore Cam Farrow (fifth, 152), junior Tyler Clemmer (sixth, 195), junior Sean Mullican (third, 220), and senior Ed Guerrero (sixth, 285).
If the Cavaliers face their Frederick County foe in the regional duals final, it will be for revenge as well as a berth in the state tourney Saturday at North Point High in Waldorf.
South Carroll has five state duals appearances, the most recent coming in 2010. The Cavs reached the finals in 2005 but fell short, so they're still searching for their first state crown.
Of course, getting through the West comes first.
"We're going to go win it," Thomas said last week. "Middletown is supposedly the best [team] we're going to have to wrestle, and I thought the score wasn't as bad as it looked [last time]. It's just matchups, close scores. So I think we've got them."
What: 2A-1A West tourney
Where: Middletown HS
When: Today, semifinals @ 5:30, finals @ 7:30
Who: Boonsboro vs. South Carroll; Middletown vs. Southern Garrett