Last season was a banner success for Carroll County wrestling. Few counties around the state could match the level of success they boasted.
At the individual state tournament, six county wrestlers brought home championships in their respective weight classes, which came on the heels of South Carroll winning the Class 1A state dual-meet title.
Of the six state champions, four return for a chance at a repeat, including a trio of Cavaliers who each finished perfect seasons.
In the Class 2A/1A state tournament, South Carroll’s Michael Pizzuto (126 pounds), Gage Owen (132) and AJ Rodrigues (160) all won championships and closed their seasons 40-0, 38-0 and 40-0, respectively. Pizzuto has since committed to wrestle collegiately at Maryland, while Owen has committed to American University.
Also back is Manchester Valley’s Jake Boog, who won the 2A/1A title at 152 pounds and is up at 170 for his senior season. The Mavericks also bring back Travis Green, last year’s third-place finisher at 145 who’s expected to compete at 160 pounds this year. Green was the county champion at 145 pounds but lost at a rematch with Liberty’s Ryan Ohler, who went on to win the state title, in the state quarterfinals.
Ohler graduated, but his brother, Dylan, a sophomore, returns after taking fourth in the state at 113 pounds last year.
The league also has a rapidly growing contingent of girls. In Carroll County, teams can hire a full-time girls coach if the roster has six or more girls. At Winters Mill, former longtime varsity coach John Lowe has returned to be the girls coach alongside co-ed coach Eric Meszaros.
Though no girls earned state championships last year, Manchester Valley’s Layla Lagunas and Winters Mill’s Gabi McLeod finished as state runners-up. With continued growth, the county should once again be well-represented at the state tournament..
Here is a team-by-team look at the county. (Editor’s note: not every team returned requests for information.)
Francis Scott Key
Coach: Bill Hyson, 44th season
Last season: 6-8 overall
Top returners: Boys: Gabe Dell (182), Jacob Dell (220), Bodey Griffin (160), Ben Lombroia (138), Patrick Mattingly (120) and Nate Taylor (126). Girls: Maddie Dehoff, McKenie Koon, Aylin Rivas and Ava Rupp.
Newcomers to watch: Boys: Daniel DeFebo (160), Chris Thomas (145) and Payton Weaver (152). Girls: Emily Arboleda, Maria Arboleda, Keira Cooper, Caroline Cruickshank, Jordan DeFebo, Ellie Kinloch and Addie Kraics.
Coach’s outlook: “We have good depth in the middle and upper weights and there is good competition for spots in the lineup. The team is working hard and is committed to being more competitive in a tough county. Our numbers for our female wrestlers has more than doubled. Our goal is to close the gap in Carroll County and try to move into the middle tier, qualify for the regional duals and, hopefully, qualify and place wrestlers at the state tournament.”
Coach: Dennis Frazier, sixth season
Last season: 8-4
Top returners: Landon Bell, Michael Binder and Jack Bruffey.
Newcomers to watch: N/A.
Coach’s outlook: “We return every wrestler from last year’s team.”
Coach: Joe Zaccagnini, fourth season
Last season: 17-16
Top returners: Boys: Juniors Dylan Rubin (195) and Adam Slicher (120/126); sophomores Kevin Poole (152) and Dylan Ohler (132).
Newcomers to watch: Boys: Freshmen Justin Herbert (160/170) and Kevin Kern (182).
Coach’s outlook: “With only four seniors graduating from last year’s starting lineup, our team is looking to build off last year’s success. We have a good blend of young talent joining the team and experienced guys returning. We only have a couple seniors on the team, which means the core group this year will be back in the program for the next few years. [The] goal for the team is to have a winning record in duals this year. Hoping to have four to five wrestlers qualify for the state championships and to have multiple guys place.
“Liberty was able to keep dual matches close in county last year. While only recording wins over FSK and Century, we lost to Westminster by tiebreaker criteria and kept things close with Manchester Valley and Winters Mill. [The] goal is to have a winning record in county this year. Hopefully, we can avenge losses from last year’s season and build on our growing success.”
Coach: David Dodson, sixth season
Last season: 31-9
Top returners: Boys: Seniors Jake Boog (170), Travis Green (160), Blake Ray (152) and Lee Seipp (126); junior Camden Yowell (138); sophomore Cru Boog (220).
Newcomer to watch: Boys: Freshman Bradyn VanDervoort (132).
Coach’s outlook: “We hope to mature as a team throughout the season, to build on our success, learn from our challenges and compete at the highest level each week. The team hopes to challenge the top teams in the county.”
Coach: Jay Braunstein, first season
Last season: 25-0
Top returners: Boys: Seniors Rylan Moose (182), Michael Pizzuto (145), Gage Owen (138) and AJ Rodrigues (170); sophomore Evan Owen (113).
Newcomers to watch: N/A.
Outlook: It’s likely no other public school program in the state can match the returning core the Cavaliers have. Rodrigues, Pizzuto and Gage Owen were all undefeated state champions as juniors and are all seeking their third state titles in as many tries, a good starting point for any program. But evident from their undefeated dual-meet record last year, the Cavaliers’ strength went beyond that trio. Rylan Moose and Evan Owen were also state placers, finishing second and fourth in their respective weight classes, and there were a number of underclassmen who fell just short of reaching that level but can climb the state podium with another year of development. South Carroll, under a veteran coach — Jay Braunstein — in his first year with the program, remains the team to beat in the county and expectations are high for another run toward a state title.
Coach: Garrett Vandervalk, first season
Last season: 22-9
Top returners: Boys: Seniors Ryder Eckenbarger, Randy Green and Ty Streib; junior Braden Vacca; sophomore Caroline McCann.
Newcomers to watch: Boys: Freshmen Liam Arnsmeyer and Kiran Naganna.
Coach’s outlook: “I am really looking forward to watching these wrestlers compete this year both as a team and individually. This is a dedicated, hard-working crew that brings valuable experience from last year. We have a good group of both experienced and new guys coming in that are eager to compete and continue to get better each day. We are looking to be competitive in the county this year led by three state qualifiers from last year (Eckenbarger, Streib, Vacca). Our new guys want to compete and continue to be students of the sport. We are looking forward to building off the success from last year.”
Coach: Eric Meszaros, fourth season
Last season: 15-6
Top returners: Boys: Seniors Damian Claypool, Jackson Richmond and Gianni Serafin; sophomore Chris Gaeng.
Newcomers to watch: Boys: Freshmen Landon Buchman, Brody Lockwood, Willis Kiler and Colton Wasmer.
Coach’s outlook: “We have 14 freshmen who came out for wrestling this year, which is the largest class I have seen in my nine years coaching at Winters Mill. There is a solid group of upperclassmen who have created a positive culture in the crowded practice room. We only have three returning seniors who made the starting lineup last year, so there will be plenty of opportunity for individuals to step up. I am looking for our team to work hard and get better every time they step on the mat.
“As always, I am hopeful that my team is competing for a county championship. It appears the number of wrestlers in the entire county is up this year, so I know it will be a challenge every time we take the mat with a county foe. Reigning champs, South Carroll, return a lot of talented wrestlers and will be tough to knock off, but that’s why you wrestle the match.”