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Quest for a state championship begins for Carroll County wrestlers

Two years ago, Carroll County went without an individual wrestling state champion for the first time in 35 years. The streak of at least one state champ from Carroll in every year since 1982 came to an end, and then a small drought continued in 2019.

But a new year brings optimism and desire, with 31 boys wrestlers from the county entered into the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association state tournament at Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro. Several of them think they have what it takes to go 4-0 over the two-day tourney and win a state championship.

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Carroll County Athletic League champion South Carroll has the county’s most participants with nine, on the Class 2A-1A side, led by unbeaten freshman Michael Pizzuto (46-0) at 106 pounds. Pizzuto is one of four freshmen in the tourney for the Cavaliers — he’s joined by Gage Owen (120, 43-3), Rylan Moose (138, 38-10), and AJ Rodrigues (126, 46-2).

The Cavs had three state finalists last year, and two of them are back. Ryan Athey (43-2) is a sophomore at 113 who took second at 106 last winter, and junior Antonio Bradford (44-5) is back at 160 after placing second in 2019.

Pizzuto, Athey, Owen, Rodrigues, Moose and Bradford joined senior Richie Summerlin as CCAL tournament champions Feb. 22 at Westminster High School.

Winters Mill has six in 2A-1A, with regional champions in senior Hunter Merson (145, 41-3) and senior Colby Unkart (34-3), and a state runner-up from 2019 in senior Zach Kirby (126, 34-4).

Unkart was the Falcons’ lone county tournament champion this season, but they had five finalists.

Francis Scott Key has four 2A-1A state qualifiers, Liberty has three, and Century has one.

FSK earned a pair of 2A-1A North crowns last weekend thanks to seniors Nathan Perry (145, 33-6) and Wyatte Johns (220, 30-7). Lions senior McClain Butler won a county title and took third at the 2A-1A West tourney.

Senior Stephen Hurst (145, 35-4) is the Knights’ lone representative after winning a county title and placing second at regionals.

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On the 4A-3A side, Manchester Valley sends seven boys into action. The Mavericks won the county tourney team title, their first in program history, after earning a spot in the 3A state dual-meet finals. All seven of the Mavs’ state tournament competitors have 40 or more wins, led by freshman Jake Boog (120, 45-5).

Seniors Thomas Chenoweth (152, 43-4) and Adam Mattson (170, 40-2) won 4A-3A East titles last weekend, and they also earned county titles along with teammate and fellow senior Grant Warner (220, 43-3).

Westminster has one 4A-3A state wrestler in senior Jack Conrad (182, 36-8).

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