The Maryland wrestling team had its overall best performance in the team's 50-year history at the USA Wrestling Junior & Cadet National Championships this month.

A record total of 21 All-American honors were earned by 15 Maryland wrestlers, including two national championships, and six double All-American placements from the 65 wrestlers who made the trip to Fargo, North Dakota. A wrestler earns All-American by placing in the Top 8 in a weight class.

Maryland placed eighth overall in Junior Greco-Roman among 47 teams.


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Among those single winners was John Carroll's Chris Almony, who finished fifth in the 152-pound Cadet Greco-Roman competition. But Almony's story is not only one of success, but challenge.

"I was happy with how things went until my first match in freestyle," Almony said. "I partially tore my rotator cuff."

It was the rising sophomore's first trip to the Fargo tournament that sees approximately 4,000 wrestlers compete, with as many as 100 in a weight class.

"I didn't know how I'd do, but I crossed my fingers," Almony said. "I'm happy with fifth in Greco. I would have liked to have been in the finals, but this was my toughest tournament."

If Almony's first-round match in freestyle was memorable because he won it with a pin after his shoulder was injured, his deciding match for fifth-place in Greco-Roman, which was wrestled before his injury, was memorable because of the way he pinned his opponent.

It was the first period, and Almony was thinking about what his father had taught him when he was just a little boy learning the sport.

"He said to approach every match like your opponent is a scrub and rip his head off," said Almony, who was 46-13 as a freshman at John Carroll. "That's what I did and you have no idea how good it feels to be fifth at Nationals and an All-American after 11 years of hard work."

Almony won that fifth-place match with a pin in 14 seconds.

Winning national titles were: Good Counsel's Kyle Snyder (220), who placed first in Junior Greco-Roman and third in Junior freestyle, and La Plata's Josh Lopez (152), who won the championship in Junior freestyle.

Snyder also won the Cadet freestyle title last year.

Double All-American winners besides Snyder were: Severn's Michael Doetsch (88), who placed second in Cadet freestyle and seventh in Cadet Greco-Roman; and Queen Anne's Matthew Olauson (195), seventh in both Cadet freestyle and Greco-Roman.

Centennial graduate Nathan Kraisser (126), who will attend North Carolina this fall, placed seventh in both the Junior Greco-Roman and Junior freestyle events, and Northern-Calvert's Eric Hoffman (152) placed eighth in both disciplines.

Kraisser said he was happy to repeat as a double All-American, "but I didn't do quite as well as I had hoped."

He was happy for the experience of being with the Maryland team, though, and seeing it excel.

"It shows Maryland is coming along, working harder, getting more national recognition," he said. "It's not just a couple kids anymore. It's kids from all around the state."

Harriet Symington of Walt Whitman placed seventh in the Junior women's freestyle and third in the Cadet women's freestyle.

Bringing home single honors in Junior Greco-Roman were: Mount St. Joseph's Daniel Hawkins (182), who finished fifth, DuVal's Thierno Diallo (120), who was fourth, Georgetown Prep's Daniel Sanchez (138), who was sixth, and Rising Sun's Anthony Cimorosi (152), who was seventh.

"The tournament was a grind," said Hawkins, a rising junior. "But the training program we had before we left helped a lot. I thought the entire experience was great. Seeing Harriet Symington get doubles and continue the tradition of strong women wrestlers in Maryland was awesome. Seeing the team break the record of 15 All-Americans with 21, it's a huge deal."

In Cadet freestyle St. Paul's Ryan Friedman (113) placed eighth, and in Cadet Greco-Roman, Northern-Calvert's Breandan Coughlin (88) placed second.

"We could have had no All-Americans and still been a success," said Neil Adleberg, who organized the pre-event training program and trip to Fargo. "The most important thing is that the kids improved their wrestling overall and it will show up in their high school wrestling achievements next season."

Adleberg points out that 58 wrestlers who competed in the Fargo tournament last year placed in public and private tournaments this past winter and 17 of them were state champions.

sandra.mckee@baltsun.com