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Wrestling: Trio of state titles power South Carroll to 2A-1A crown

UPPER MARLBORO — South Carroll went into the finals at Saturday's state wrestling tournament trailing Middletown by one point, a deficit that had coach Bryan Hamper's attention.

So Hamper turned to two of his three finalists, Joey Thomas and Jamar Williams, who were pacing nearby, and informed them of the situation. No big deal, but the Cavaliers' chances of winning a third consecutive Class 2A-1A state title likely hinged on their success in the championship round at Show Place Arena.

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It wasn't a problem, considering juniors Thomas (113 pounds) and Williams (160), along with senior Shane Conners (152), came into the Class 2A-1A tournament sporting a combined record of 148-1.

South Carroll's studs each won individual state championships, with Thomas and Williams securing their second in a row, and lifted the Cavaliers to their third team in as many years.

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The Cavs finished with 119 points behind five placewinners. Middletown came in second with 116.

Carroll crowned four individual champions — South Carroll's trio and Westminster senior Ryker Eckenbarger, who won a 4A-3A state championship at 126.

"It was a great team race, and coming down I knew that if we were within striking distance with our three guys, I knew we could get it done," Hamper said. "For the last couple of years, those have been the guys."

Thomas beat Mardela junior Nasir Tucker 13-4, giving up all four points on his own en route to a second consecutive state crown. Thomas (53-0) took control of his match early, perhaps motivated by what he said he heard in the days leading up to states.

"He said he would beat the crap out of me before the tournament started," Thomas said. "But I didn't see any beating on me, so..."

Thomas (53-0) flexed before the official raised his hand following the bout, and he retreated with Hamper and assistant coach Zac Stavish.

"That's a good start," Hamper said out loud.

South Carroll led 110-106 but Middletown answered with a pin from Danny Bertoni at 132. The Knights crowned only two champs, however, while the Cavaliers got bonus points from Thomas and Conners.

Conners, the county's all-time wins leader, dominated his bout with Thomas Stone's Dylan Workmann, winning 14-1 and celebrating by waving to the South Carroll fans in the stands to get them fired up.

"Going into the season, I had my eye on that state title," said Conners, who capped his high school career with a 54-0 record. "I can't even put it into words right now."

Conners left the mat for Williams, who won a state title last season at 138 but bulked up and struck fear into his share of opponents all season long. Williamsport's Jerry Moschel stayed with Williams in the final, but Williams prevailed 9-4 to capture state crown No. 2.

And make South Carroll a little more comfortable as the finals wound down.

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"It feels really good," said Williams, who finishes 53-1. "I know all of these guys, they worked really hard. And it was just great."

South Carroll's state champions didn't need to say much following their victories. The wins spoke for themselves.

"It doesn't get much better than that," Hamper said. "I think they really made a statement of where they are when their peers are out there."

Eckenbarger and Damascus' Scott Oberdorfer, a state champ from last year, were tied 3-3 midway through the third period of their final. Oberdorfer was on top of Eckenbarger, who said he planned on waiting as long as he could before going for an escape.

He slipped out of Oberdorfer's grasp with about 30 seconds remaining, then sealed the 6-3 win with a late takedown.

"Patience on bottom, no need to get out with 59 seconds left and give him time to do something," said Eckenbarger, who finishes 45-3. "I knew I could get out when I wanted."

And Eckenbarger ended his high school career with his first county and state championships.

"I'm pumped," he said. "Ready to do some wrestling in college."

Carroll's lone third-place finisher was Manchester Valley senior Ethan Bare, who ended his high school wrestling career with a win. Bare beat Eastern Tech's Tyleigh Horton 3-2 in the consolation final and ended the year with a 38-3 record.

North Carroll senior Aaron Nelson (126), South Carroll junior Jake Mackenzie (132), Century senior Teddy Nava (138), and Winters Mill senior Kyle Fisher (170) all finished fourth.

SC freshman Cam Werner (120) joined MV junior Zach McAleer (126) and Century junior Cody Davis (170) as fifth-place finishers.

The county's sixth-place finishers were NC senior Connor Waskiewicz (145), Liberty sophomore Evan Bliden (152), SC senior Talmadge Eller (182), and Francis Scott Key senior Jon Milstreed (195).

NOTE: To see the 2A-1A and 4A brackets in their entirety, go to www.mpssaa.countysportszone.com.

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