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Winter Sports Previews: 3 things to watch for wrestling

Carroll County’s wrestling teams have returned to the mat for another season that will culminate in early March at Show Place Arena, site of the annual state tournament. Here are three things to watch this winter for the 2019-20 season.

A new streak to start

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Carroll’s 35-year run of at least one state champion came to an end in 2018, and the county sent four wrestlers into state finals at last year’s tournament to try and start a new one. South Carroll’s Ryan Athey (freshman, 106 pounds), Antonio Bradford (sophomore, 160), and Steven Dahl (senior, 152) were joined by Winters Mill’s Zach Kirby (sophomore, 126).

All four grapplers came in second on the Class 2A-1A side. Athey lost 1-0 to Mountain Ridge’s Jesse Fresh in the final, the last bout of the state tournament in Upper Marlboro. Bradford dropped a 7-0 decision to Roell Ngounou of Owings Mills, and Dahl fell 7-2 to La Plata’s Owen Butler.

Kirby tussled with Maxmius Bentley of Easton before losing 5-4.

Athey, Bradford, and Kirby are returning in hopes for an individual state title, and the beginning of a new county run.

Carroll County Times wrestling preview capsules for the 2019-20 season.

New coaches leading Carroll programs

Winters Mill’s Eric Meszaros spent the last five seasons as an assistant coach to John Lowe, and took over earlier this year when Lowe stepped down to cap a 17-year career leading the Falcons. Meszaros inherits a WM squad that won Carroll County Athletic League regular-season and tournament championships a year ago, and wrestled in the 2A West dual-meet tournament for a second year in a row (the Falcons again lost in the semifinals to eventual state champ Damascus).

The Hornets moved up to 3A for this season, giving Meszaros and the Falcons a window through which to peer. Kirby leads a crop of talented returners on this year’s squad.

“Our team knocked on the door of a state title two years running, and the defending champion ... is no longer in our classification,” Meszaros said via email. “Our team goals this year are to compete for a county championship, qualify for the postseason, and win the region.”

Liberty Wrestling Coach, Shawn Girch. Wrestling, Liberty at Francis Scott Key. Liberty defeated FSK 54-30.
Liberty Wrestling Coach, Shawn Girch. Wrestling, Liberty at Francis Scott Key. Liberty defeated FSK 54-30. (Jeffrey F. Bill)

Liberty features the other first-year coach in Shawn Girch, who replaces Jeff Kent at the helm. Girch, a former wrestler at Mount Hebron, is a business teacher in the school and has recent high school coaching experience at Owings Mills.

Girch led the Lions to a 54-30 win in their season opener Dec. 5 at Francis Scott Key.

Expansion for the state tournament

Earlier this year, the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association approved an officially sanctioned girls high school state championship for the upcoming season after hosting a girls invitational the last two years.

There will be girls divisions in each of the eight regional tournaments, and each one will conduct an eight-line, double-elimination bracket (girls that participate can choose to enter the female division or compete in their respective classification’s division for either gender).

The top two wrestlers in each weight class advance to a single classification, 16-line bracket at the state tourney. The girls weight classes are set for 100, 106, 112, 117, 122, 127, 132, 138, 144, 152, 164, 180, 200, and 225 pounds.

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