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Carroll County wrestlers set for annual CCAL tournament

The postseason is here for high school wrestling, and the road to Show Place Arena, site of the state tournament, begins this weekend at the county level.

The Carroll County Athletic League championship will be decided Saturday, Feb. 22 at Westminster High School, where the 53rd installment of the county tourney is taking place. A new wrinkle in crowning the season’s CCAL champ has order of finish at the tournament counting toward an overall points system.

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South Carroll leads the county chase with six points (one for each CCAL dual-meet win), followed by Manchester Valley (five), Winters Mill (four), Westminster (three), Liberty (two), Century (one), and Francis Scott Key (zero). The team that places first at the county tourney gets seven points, the runner-up gets six, third place gets five, and so on down to one point for finishes seventh.

Winters Mill took first at the county tournament last year after winning the regular-season county crown as well. South Carroll claimed tourney titles from 2015-18 after WM reeled off six straight from 2009-14.

The Falcons joined South Carroll as two of the four teams that qualified for this year’s Class 2A West Region dual-meet tourney, won by Glenelg when the Gladiators clipped the Cavaliers 33-32. Meanwhile, Man Valley won the 3A East title — its first regional crown in school history — and advanced to the state tournament before bowing out against Damascus in the finals.

Manchester Valley's Jake Boog, left, tries to put Damascus's Shyler Clark onto his back in the 120 weight class during the 3A finals of the MPSSAA state dual wrestling tournament at the at North Point High School on Saturday, Feb. 15.
Manchester Valley's Jake Boog, left, tries to put Damascus's Shyler Clark onto his back in the 120 weight class during the 3A finals of the MPSSAA state dual wrestling tournament at the at North Point High School on Saturday, Feb. 15.(Brian Krista/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Getting that experience could go a long way in determining individual success, said MV senior Thomas Chenoweth.

“We have a lot of wrestlers that we hope to make it to the state level,” Chenoweth said after the 3A duals final. “We’re going to look to win ourselves a county title at the individual tournament, and hopefully we can perform at states too.”

The Hornets picked up bonus points in pivotal bouts and finished strong to claim an eighth consecutive state duals title by defeating Man Valley 42-26.

This year’s event combines team and individual intrigue — nine wrestlers will be going after a second career county title.

South Carroll’s Ryan Athey (106) and Antonio Bradford (160), Liberty’s Ryan Ohler (113), Man Valley’s Heathe Hernandez (120) and Chad Schaffer (138), Winters Mill’s Zach Kirby (126), Westminster’s Jack Conrad (195), and FSK’s Wyatte Johns (220) all claimed county crowns in 2019. WM’s Hunter Merson (113) won a championship in 2018.

This year, Athey (39-1) is competing at 113 as a sophomore while Bradford (38-4), a junior, remains at 160. Lions sophomore Ohler (32-7) is up at 132 along with Mavs junior Hernandez (32-10), and senior Schaffer (35-8) is back at 138.

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WM junior Kirby (31-1) is back at 126, and senior Merson (26-2) is at 145. Owls senior Conrad (33-5) is down at 182, and Eagles junior Johns (26-6) is back at 220.

Only three of those former champions carry a top seed into the county tournament, however. Athey is No. 1 at 113, Schaffer at 138, and Bradford at 160.

SC freshman Michael Pizzuto (41-0) is the top seed at 106, and he’s the lone unbeaten wrestler in the tourney. Teammate Gage Owen (38-3), another freshmen, is the top seed at 120, and Cavaliers freshman AJ Rodrigues (41-1) is No. 1 at 126.

Rodrigues handed Kirby his only loss of the year when the two faced off in the Class 2A West Region dual-meet tournament semifinals Feb. 12 in Winfield.

Winters Mill senior Colby Unkart (29-3) is No. 1 at 132 and Century senior Stephen Hurst (31-3) is the top seed at 145. Hurst took third at 138 last season, and third at 120 in 2018.

Chenoweth (39-3) is No. 1 at 152, and fellow Mavs senior Adam Mattson (35-2) is tops at 170. Chenoweth was a county runner-up at 152 last winter, and Mattson placed third at 160.

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Liberty senior McClain Butler (35-2) is the No. 1 seed at 182, and WM junior Cian McCauley (23-9) is tops at 195. Man Valley has the top seeds at 220 and 285 in junior Grant Warner (40-2) and senior Zach Brathuhn (27-15).

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