Manchester Valley and Winters Mill are back in regional dual-meet wrestling tournaments for a second year in a row, and each team is motivated to fare better that it did in 2018.
In Class 2A West, Winters Mill entered as the No. 4 seed out of four teams and squared off against top-seeded and unbeaten Damascus. Things didn’t go well for the Falcons — the Hornets won 66-12 and claimed the region crown en route to their sixth state championship in a row.
In 3A West, Man Valley earned the No. 2 seed and faced Linganore in the semifinals. The Mavericks and Lancers were tied 33-33 after 14 bouts, so the winner was determined by tiebreaker criteria — the eighth one, to be exact, which gave Linganore the victory.
Motivation doesn’t seem to be lost on either Carroll County squad this time around.
“If we can stay off our back and compete where we can compete, and get the bonus points, we’ll give ourselves a chance,” said Mavericks coach Dave Dodson. “And that has been the thing we’ve preached all season.”
Man Valley is 9-5 in duals that count toward the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association’s official standings, which earned it the No. 3 seed in this year’s 3A West tournament. The Mavericks face No. 2 Tuscarora (13-1) in one semifinal at 5:30 p.m., while No. 1 Linganore (14-0) meets No. 4 South Hagerstown (7-6) in the other matchup.
Dodson said the wrestlers returning from last year’s team know full well how close they came to advancing to the region finals. Tuscarora beat Linganore to win the 3A West title a year ago.
The Titans boast three grapplers in the latest Maryland State Wrestling Association’s rankings — Conner Herron at 138 pounds, Alex Westbrook at 160, and Andrew Chavarria at 170. Chavarria is fourth in his class among 4A-3A wrestlers.
Heathe Hernandez, a sophomore, is Man Valley’s lone ranked wrestler (Others To Watch, 120).
The Mavs posted a 24-15 dual-meet record this season (MV competed in three dual-meet tourneys along the way) and had its share of success. But just qualifying for regional duals isn’t enough for the program, its coach said.
“It’s not easy,” Dodson said about being in the region duals. “We talked about it that, never take it for granted. Each year is a different year. … Make it that it’s going to be something we strive to do on a regular basis. I think the kids who are in the program that had that experience have benefited. It’s not always easy, it’s hard work.”
Winters Mill has its own dual-meet history, with three regional titles and a pair of state championships since 2011. The Falcons were denied by Damascus last winter, but coach John Lowe said he thinks there’s more balance in this year’s tourney despite it being the same foursome and same pairings.
The Hornets are 14-0 once more, while WM is 11-3. The other 2A West semi features No. 2 Williamsport (13-1) against No. 3 Middletown (11-3).
“I don’t know that something has to happen early, but we do have to stay focused for the whole time, that’s for sure,” Lowe said. “Last year it would have taken a really, really big turnaround for an uspet. And I just think this year there’s greater parity. I think a strong performance by any team is going to get them the title.”
Damascus has eight wrestlers ranked in the MSWA’s latest listings, led by senior Tim Furgeson at 182 (first in 2A-1A, third overall). Junior Silas Patton is second in 2A-1A at 106, and senior Elijah Baisden is second at 220. Michael Emerick, a sophomore, is third at 126.
Winters Mill has two grapplers ranked fifth in 2A-1A in their weight classes — sophomore Zach Kirby at 126, and senior Trevor Fawley at 182. Josh Burndley, another senior, is sixth at 160, and sophomore Colby Unkart is sixth at 132.
The Hornets grabbed an early lead in last year’s semifinal and the Falcons couldn’t recover. Lowe said he thinks the matchups can favor Winters Mill this year if things fall its way.
The Falcons hung with Williamsport on Jan. 25 before falling 43-30, and Lowe said the Wildcats performed well when they competed in Damascus’ holiday tournament. Middletown, meanwhile, is a perennial postseason participant with three region duals titles in the last four seasons, and state crowns in 2016 and 2017.
“Nothing’s for sure,” Lowe said, “but these are indicators that we’re all pretty close in ability.”