Broadneck's Michael Garlington wins state title; South River's Ka'Ron Lewis repeats at heavyweight

UPPER MARLBORO — Ka’Ron Lewis is no fluke. When he rose from the mat on Saturday night, he held up two fingers to prove it.

“Last year, when I won, people said it was a fluke. Coming in, being seeded as the four guy,” Lewis said. “Coming back a year later, winning the tournament again, really shows I deserve both wins.”

After heading into overtime tied, the South River senior emerged a two-time Maryland Public Secondary School Athletic Association Class 4A/3A state champion at the Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro after shutting down Springbrook’s Aimrick Nya 3-1.

Lewis, dealing with an opponent who relied heavily on defense, had to be clever in making his fatal shot. When Nya didn’t find his escape, the Springbrook senior attacked Lewis’ legs, which was his last mistake. Lewis threw all his weight on top of Nya and secured the two points.

“Ka’Ron pushed the pace the whole time. He was aggressive,” Seahawks coach John Klessinger said. “In those situations, you get nervous – hey, my kid’s doing all the work – hopefully it doesn’t come down to that coin flip. Fortunately, it didn’t.”

A two-time state champion is a first for South River wrestling. Lewis said it’s not for him — it’s for his family, friends and his Seahawks.

“It really means a lot, keeping South River on the map for wrestling,” Lewis said. “We’ve got some of the greatest coaches in the state, greatest wrestlers in the state.”

Lewis, a two-time county and regional champion as well, will leave South River having kept the state heavyweight title in Edgewater for the last three years. Before Lewis assumed his two-year reign, Brendan Woody claimed the crown in 2017.

“Outside of winning, we’re going to miss him, just for who he is. The kids love him,” Seahawks coach John Klessinger said as the entire South River team flocked around their champion. “...He’s done it was such humility, and that’s the biggest thing.”

Lewis was one of two top-three finishes for South River on Saturday. Before him, Trenton Puccinelli finished runner-up in the 160.

Puccinelli, though, had finished fifth overall last winter as a 145-pound wrestler. So even when Leonardtown’s Trevor Crowley twisted out of Puccinelli’s grasp for the go-ahead point in the third period, and then grappled the Seahawk down to take the match on a 5-3 decision, Puccinelli had gone farther than he ever had before.

“I know he’s disappointed. We’re disappointed. It’s been a tough road for him, four years, it has,” Klessinger said. “He hasn’t had it easy and he’s done a great job. I know he wanted to win that match. Maybe nerves got to him a little bit, but it was a great tournament, great career. Nothing but happy for him.”

Two more Seahawks placed on Saturday: senior Mason Smith took sixth in the 106 while junior Isaac Barber took fourth in the 120.

“We got next year,” Lewis said, “and the class coming up looks very promising.”

Lewis was, of course, one of two Anne Arundel County victors. After transferring from DeMatha Catholic, Broadneck senior Michael Garlington (138) worked seven days a week between club, drilling sessions with his brother and school practice to become a county, regional and state champion in his final year.

“I know I have college season coming up,” said the York commit, “and I wanted to come in there saying I was a state champ. The work just paid off.”

Momentarily, his bid seemed doomed. Garlington, with bleach-dyed hair to match his Broadneck teammates (as is tradition), avoided falling by pin to yet another ritually-blonde opponent in Quince Orchard’s Jose Echeona in the second period.

“To be honest, it makes me mad when I get pinned,” Garlington said. “I think nine times out of ten, when you get pinned, it’s ‘cause you gave up and let them. … Win or lose, I was going to let him know he was in a fight.”

Down 5-4, Garlington battled with every tiny movement. As Echeona tried to roll him underneath, Garlington wriggled against him. The Bruin earned a takedown to pull ahead by one point and then hung on, surviving the last few seconds until he could leap into the arms of his coaches a champion, with a 6-5 decision.

“He only wrestled three years after transferring from DeMatha, missing a year,” Broadneck coach Reid Bloomfield said. “To come out here [and win], his growth over a three-year period, it’s a credit to the coaching staff, it’s a credit to his family, it’s a credit to him as an athlete and as a competitor.”

Broadneck senior Nick Schardt (132) finished fourth — one rung higher than last year — while senior Vinny Facciponti (195) took fifth in overtime. Placing had been the Bruin’s goal, and he’d accomplished it.

“They push me to be the best wrestler I can be. Every day I drill with Nick, I work out with Vinny,” Garlington said. “We inspire each other.”

Southern proved to be the third most-successful county program, as far as getting wrestlers medals. Freshman Justin Knapp outlasted Hammond’s Shehzan Dahya in overtime to place fifth in the 2A/1A 106. Andrew Ruel, also a freshman, finished sixth overall in the 113.

Old Mill, once again, put a Tull on the podium. This time, it was Caron Tull; the sophomore pinned Manchester Valley’s Chad Schaffer to place fifth in the 138.

Five Anne Arundel programs had one wrestler place. Arundel sophomore Caleb Chaves (126) blanked Atholton’s Drew Pruett 2-0. In the 220, Severna Park senior Conor Bowes secured fifth with a 5-2 decision while North County senior DeShawn Madison took third by pinning Clarksburg’s Jevon Coche. Annapolis junior Nate Ditmars (132) landed sixth.

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