xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement

South Carroll lands triple play with trio of champs at state wrestling tournament

South Carroll had three finalists at the Class 2A-1A state wrestling tournament for the second time in as many years, and this time the Cavaliers envisioned a much different outcome.

Last season, all three SC grapplers fell short in their championship bouts at Show Place Arena. Cavs coach Matt Thomas said that wasn’t going to happen again.

Advertisement

And so three freshmen banded together, determined to make South Carroll the school that ended the county’s two-year drought of finishing the year without an individual champ. Michael Pizzuto went first at 106 pounds and won in overtime. Two matches later, Gage Owen (120) avenged a loss from earlier in the season. AJ Rodrigues (126) followed that with the Cavaliers’ third victory — 3-for-3 for South Carroll’s young guns.

“When we went for the national anthem there [before the finals] they looked at me when they all came out and [Pizzuto] said, ‘I got this. I’m going to be your first state champ and I’m going to go 50-0,'" Thomas said. "He looked at them and said, ‘You guys are next.’”

Pizzuto capped his season by finishing 50-0 and beating Mountain Ridge senior Jesse Fresh 3-1 in overtime. Pizzuto downed Fresh 4-3 last weekend at the 2A-1A West tournament and said he learned from the experience.

“It was a tight match, I just knew I had to wrestle my match,” the freshman said. “I knew I had a good chance of winning as long as I wrestled well. It was much easier to wrestle him this time. I just had to score my points, open up a little bit.”

Pizzuto flashed five fingers and then an O, for “50,” moments after taking down Fresh in extra time — he used an escape to tie the score at 1-1 with about 40 seconds to go in regulation.

Owen and Rodrigues were waiting for their chance, but watching Pizzuto win certainly didn’t hurt their mental state.

“It sets the tone for what’s in store,” Rodrigues said. “When he wins a state championship, you want a state championship.”

Owen (47-3) last faced Stephen Decatur senior Jagger Clapsadle, a former South Carroll wrestler before he moved to the Eastern Shore, at the Iron Horse Duals in early January. Clapsadle won that bout by technical fall, 17-2, early in the third period.

Advertisement
Coach Matt Thomas, right, embraces South Carroll freshman Gage Owen after his win over Stephen Decatur senior Jagger Clapsadle in the final of the 2A/1A 120 weight class during the state wrestling tournament at The Show Place Arena on Saturday, March 7.
Coach Matt Thomas, right, embraces South Carroll freshman Gage Owen after his win over Stephen Decatur senior Jagger Clapsadle in the final of the 2A/1A 120 weight class during the state wrestling tournament at The Show Place Arena on Saturday, March 7.(Brian Krista/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Owen preferred a different outcome when they squared off in the finals. A second-period cradle helped him grab a 7-2 lead, and Owen held on from there to win 8-6.

“I just believed in myself, and that I can win,” he said. “I knew that I was a different wrestler now than I was before, and then [I had] to come back and just do what I needed to do.”

Rodrigues went next, and faced Williamsport sophomore Landen Harbaugh in their championship bout. Harbaugh won the 2A-1A West title last weekend, but had one loss all year long — Rodrigues beat him 8-3 at the Damascus tourney back in December.

Rodrigues allowed a late escape in the state final and won 4-3 to finish 50-2.

“You don’t want to be the one left out,” Rodrigues said. “I just had to do my stuff better, because I beat him last time ... and he didn’t know what was coming. Now he knew was in store, that single [leg takedown], he knew I was going to hit that and he studied me. So it was a little harder this time.”

South Carroll freshman AJ Rodrigues celebrates his win over Williamsport sophomore Landen Harbaugh in the final of the 2A/1A 126 weight class during the state wrestling tournament at The Show Place Arena on Saturday, March 7.
South Carroll freshman AJ Rodrigues celebrates his win over Williamsport sophomore Landen Harbaugh in the final of the 2A/1A 126 weight class during the state wrestling tournament at The Show Place Arena on Saturday, March 7.(Brian Krista/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Carroll sent 31 boys wrestlers and nine girls into state tourney action, and had 17 boys place among the top six (six girls did the same).

Advertisement

There were five finalists in all — Liberty senior McClain Butler (182) and Manchester Valley junior Grant Warner (220) each finished second.

Butler (43-4) lost to Glenelg’s Drew Sotka 3-2 in their 2A-1A final, while Warner (47-4) fell to Severna Park’s Ty Broadway 13-6 on the 4A-3A side.

Carroll County had three boys take third by winning their consolation finals.

Francis Scott Key’s Perry (38-7) lost his opening match Friday but finished with five consecutive wins and pinned Boonsboro’s Lloyd Riley in the second period to take third.

SC sophomore Ryan Athey, a state finalist last season at 106, lost his quarterfinal bout against Owings Mills’ Alex Dufour before going 4-0 the rest of the way. Athey (48-3) notched two technical falls en route to defeating Justin Knapp of Southern (Anne Arundel) 11-4 in their consolation final.

Senior Thomas Chenoweth (48-5) gave Man Valley a third-place finisher when he clipped Mount Hebron’s Bryce Kampert 8-7.

Man Valley also had Adam Mattson (170) take fourth, while Winters Mill junior Cian McCauley did the same at 195.

The Mavericks had both of their girls participants also finish third — Summer Shackelford (122) won 3-2 over Carver Tech’s Morgan Bean, and Katie Martin (132) blanked Colonel Richardson’s Saleta Nichols 9-0.

Winters Mill’s Grace Adkins (144) placed fourth.

NOTE: Manchester Valley received the MPSSAA’s dual meet sportsmanship award prior to Saturday night’s championship finals. The Mavericks, who won their program’s first regional dual-meet tourney title and took second at the 3A state duals, earned the award based on coach, athlete, and fan behavior.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement