When George Dunn finished his 11th season as head coach at Lansdowne High in 2020, he left the state tournament with a pair of talented juniors who reached the podium at states and were poised to improve as seniors.
Riley Bozeman was sixth in the state tournament after finishing second in 2019 and Kyree Briscoe was a three-time state qualifier, also finishing sixth in 2020. Both won regional titles and Briscoe was a county champion along with teammate Jacob Lipscomb.
Lipscomb graduated, but Bozeman and Briscoe never got the chance to get back on the podium at states and Dunn, who takes over as the coach at Catonsville this winter, never got a chance to coach them again because COVID canceled the 2020-2021 season.
“They would have been serious contenders for state championships,” Dunn said. “I was really torn about leaving Lansdowne because I was there for so long and we built a great program and had a lot of great memories there, helped a lot of kids. But the Catonsville job was just hard to turn down since I’ve been here before as a JV coach.”
Dunn’s best season leading Lansdowne was in 2018 when the Vikings went 11-0 during the regular season and hosted the regional tournament as the top seed. The 2019 team went to regionals at Bel Air.
“All those kids, other than Jacob Lipscomb (40-5 in his senior year), started wrestling for me as freshmen,” Dunn said. “They all came through the program and I had a nice group of seniors who came together at the right time and that felt good.”
Dunn, who takes over the Comets’ head coaching reigns from Eric Warm this season, expects to have several wrestlers grappling at the state tournament.
“I’m excited,” said Dunn, who coached the Catonsville JV for two years before going to Lansdowne. “I think we can take it over the top. We’ve got some guys coming in that buy into the program and we are going to do all right.”
The Comets were 14-0 during the 2018-2019 season and finished 11-3 in 2019-2020. Dunn’s 2019-2020 Vikings were 11-6 and narrowly missed the regional tournament.
This year’s Comets include a handful of grapplers with varsity experience, including senior twins Tomas and Eric Grap, who will wrestle at around 145 and 152 pounds.
“They both went to regionals as sophomores so they are expecting to go to states and try to place,” Dunn said.
Senior heavyweight Luke Pittman, junior middleweight Mason Ritter and senior lightweight Josh Sampson also have varsity experience.
Ritter’s younger brother, Drew, is a sophomore lightweight with experience.
Newcomers include Devin Boger, a senior transfer from Pikesville High who was a JV county champion, and sophomore Toby Eveleth. Both are threats at 120, 126 or 132.
“He (Eveleth) is the horse we are riding this year,” said Dunn, of the Mount St. Joseph transfer. “He is really good. He hasn’t been on varsity yet, we will see how it goes, but I have high hopes for him.”
Freshmen Adonis Jovenal, Greyson Jones, and Isaak Powell hope to pay early dividends at the lowest weights , while juniors Zayd Favors (220) and Corson Durst (160-170) have shown early potential.
“The first couple weeks of practice it has gotten so much better, just knocking that rust off and getting sharp again and getting back in that wrestling mode,” said Dunn, who will be assisted by John Youngberg and Brian Eveleth. “The last couple days I’ve been really impressed at how they are picking things up.”
The numbers are up and so is the competition in the wrestling room.
“Guys are coming in, they are hungry and they are glad to be back on the mat. It’s been a long time,” Dunn said.
Seniors vying for spots in the lineup include Brandon Bowers, Jesse Hanna and Aidan Hill, and juniors looking to shine are Panagiotis Marousis, Shawn McCadden and Kaleb Williams.
The Comets open the season on Dec. 7 at Western Tech in a tri-meet with Sparrows Point.
“That will be a really good litmus test to see where we are. Sparrows Point is the defending county champs,” Dunn said.
Catonsville will also compete in tournaments in Boonsboro (Dec. 10-11), Havre de Grace (Jan. 14-15) and at the Snoverlea Tournament at Overlea High (Jan. 28-29).