Winters Mill senior Troy Blessing talks about the Falcons' balanced lineup standout freshmen.
Winters Mill wrestling coach John Lowe can’t talk about this season without mentioning the Falcons’ storied past.
That includes six straight county championships from 2009 to 2014.
He is confident that the ingredients for a second streak, starting this winter, are at hand.
The Falcons boast a stacked lineup from the lower weights to the heavyweights while featuring a nice blend of upperclassmen and underclassmen.
“There’s a potential for a nice run,” said Lowe, whose team has fashioned a perfect 14-0 dual-meet record. “You have the rising of the kids that are on the high school team and there (are standout) kids coming in from the junior (ranks).
“That’s usually a sign something special can happen,” he added. “I feel we are in pretty good shape for a county title.”
The county tournament takes place Feb. 17 at Westminster High School.
And Lowe, who served as the wrestling coach at McDaniel College for nine seasons before coming to Winters Mill, should consider his club the favorite for a county crown after the Falcons beat Westminster twice.
“We beat Westminster fairly solidly in the Grindstone Duals and they beat everyone else in the county,” said Lowe, whose squad also thumped the Owls, 60-18, in a dual-meet Jan. 10.
Lowe also has some other championships on his mind: The 2A-1A West regional dual-meet title and the state duals.
But winning either of those titles might be the biggest challenge in his 15 years on the job at Winters Mill because the competition is as tough as it gets.
“They redrew the regional lines, and all the defending state champs are in 2A West, which is our region,” said Lowe, whose team won dual-meet state titles in 2012 and 2013. “So we will have to beat Middletown and Damascus, which have won between them the five straight dual-meet (state) titles. That is really tough to do.”
Winter’s Mill is loaded with elite wresters and Lowe’s son Hunter, a senior, and another senior, Troy Blessing, are the best of the bunch.
Blessing (160 pounds, 21-2) boasts a career record of 107-32 and is coming off an outstanding season, having gone 36-8 at 145 while winning a county title and placing fourth in the region in 2017.
Blessing has won titles at both the Battle in the Boro and Falcon Invitational this season.
“It’s difficult to be a starter as a freshman for a good program and it’s even harder to win 25 or 30 matches as a freshman and keep on doing it,” Lowe said. “Wrestling is about being more intense and aggressive than your opponent. He is usually more intense and aggressive than his opponents.”
Hunter Lowe has the best accomplishment of any Falcon by placing fifth in the state last year at 182 pounds while going 41-9 and taking second in the county and third in the region.
Like Blessing, Lowe has won the Battle in the Boro and Falcon Invitational this season. He’s 21-2 at 195.
“He dominates a lot from the top position because of his legs,” said Zach Blessing, a Winters Mill assistant wrestling coach and Troy’s older brother. “He catches his opponents off guard and the next thing you know, he is up three or four points and is working for the pin. And I think he has improved as a wrestler all-around this year.”
Senior Casey Rowe (182, 19-3) is another highly regarded Winters Mill grappler. He took third in the county and sixth in the region last year on his way to winning 27 matches.
“Rowe has been very hard to score on this year,” Blessing said. “He really has worked his defense from neutral. When he decides to open it up and be on the aggressive side, he catches his opponents off guard with that as well.”
Lowe said he has been especially impressed with freshmen Garrett Dell (106, 20-4) and Zach Kirby (132, 21-4).
They’re both products of the Manchester Youth Wrestling Club, but have different wrestling styles.
“Dell is very methodical,” Lowe said. “He takes his time, he has a game plan and knows what he wants to do. He like the ice man. You don’t see much emotion from him. Kirby is a maverick. He wrestles with his hair on fire. His intensity level is immense.”
Winters Mill also features sophomores Logan Konold (120, 17-5), Colby Unkart (132, 18-6), juniors Nico Vagnier (145, 15-4), Trevor Fawley (170, 20-3) and Josh Burndley (152, 127-7), and seniors Alex Miller (220, 20-3) and Blake Billings (285, 14-10).
“Most of the guys on this team have wrestled together for four or five years going back to the Manchester and Pack Rats (junior) programs,” Troy Blessing said. “I think it really helps grow this bond we have and really helps grow this team.”