Howard County wrestlers earn record seven state championships

River Hill wrestling coach Brandon Lauer knew his target. Score 100 points in the 4A/3A state wrestling tournament Saturday night at Cole Field House and go home with the school's second state tournament championship trophy.

"I told them before the tournament that we needed to score 100 points -- and I felt like that would do it," said Lauer, whose team scored 92.5 points to place second behind champion North Hagerstown (96.5). "We fell a little bit short of that, and there was another team that had a little bit more than us."


But after watching three of his seniors — Michael Beck (120), Logan Kirby (195) and Cory Daniel (220) — win state titles, it was hard for Lauer to feel as if his team fell short.

"Three champs is incredible. The school has had only four individual champions," said Lauer, who won three state titles for River Hill from 1998 to 2000. "For Cory to get his second, Logan to break his streak of runners-up, and Michael to right the wrong of last year's catastrophe in the quarterfinals."

Beck, Kirby and Daniel have gone a combined 253-5 over the past two seasons, a winning percentage of more than 98 percent.

"It's a great way to end their careers, and I couldn't be prouder of them," Lauer said. "They've been staples of this program and it's awesome to see them go out with a win as state champs. It's a special night."

It was a special night for Howard County as a whole. Local wrestlers won seven state titles, breaking the record of six set in 2001.

Reservoir senior Mason Kilcarr (132), Centennial sophomore Austin Kraisser (145), Oakland Mills junior Jaron Smith (160) and Howard senior Jared Rodriguez (182) climbed the podium as well. (Read below for capsules and championship videos of the 4A/3A Howard County champs.)

"It's just a testament to what's going on in our county, the emphasis on trying to get these kids to wrestle in junior league, getting these kids to wrestle on junior varsity programs that are strong ... everybody wants to win, so it just raises the level," Lauer said. "On top of that you add great coaches throughout the county and it equals success and recognition down here at Cole Field House."

Mt. Hebron junior Jeff Hayden (120) and Wilde Lake senior Malik Jackon (152) each lost hard-fought decisions in the finals to place second.

Mt. Hebron junior Connor Strunk (152) and Reservoir senior Wes Beattie (182) each battled back through the consolation brackets to take third.

River Hill senior Michael Beck (120)

Beck faced a familiar foe in the state finals: Mt. Hebron junior Jeff Hayden. The former junior league teammates have met six times in high school competition, with Beck winning each time by a close decision.

"I knew I was going to have to wrestle Jeff again," said Beck, who placed third last year as a junior. "I know what he's going to do, he knows what I'm going to do, so it just comes down to who can execute their technique. I knew he was going to come at me with a single, so I was keeping my arm down like I did the past couple of matches."

Beck lost only once last year, when he was uncharacteristically caught in a second period pin during a scramble in the quarterfinals.

Against Hayden on Saturday, Beck led 3-2 with 60 seconds left, and came out on top during a scramble to score the insurance takedown.

"I'm ecstatic, this feels great," said the senior, who hopes to wrestle for Maryland next year. "I knew I could do it last year but we came up short, so it just feels great to come out and get it done."

Reservoir senior Mason Kilcarr (132)

The memories of last year's first period pin against Broadneck's two-time state champion Cameron Harrell were still fresh in the mind of Kilcarr, who blanked North Hagerstown junior Hunter Faith, 5-0, for his first state title.

"I knew he was good on top cause he puts legs in. I didn't want to risk it, so I chose top and worked my tight waist which always helps me," Kilcarr said. "I knew I'd beat him on my feet because I'm a little quicker. My game plan worked just how I wanted to."

Kilcarr planned to "eat a lot" including "a big steak" to celebrate his long awaited accomplishment.

"I've been waiting for this for a long time and worked really hard for it, and when it happens it's beautiful. I don't know how to describe it. It's awesome," said Kilcarr, who won his third county title by pinfall two weeks ago. "Getting stuck in 30 seconds in the state finals isn't fun, and that does push you harder. Obviously this was my goal after that match and I came and accomplished it."

Kilcarr, who finishes with an impeccable career record of 140-16 at Reservoir, hopes to continue wrestling for George Mason next year.

Troy and Trent Kilcarr are juniors at Reservoir, Payton and Bryce Kilcarr previously wrestled for Reservoir, and Reese Kilcarr will be a freshman next year.

"I hope the Kilcarr name stays around for awhile. We're a tough family. We don't get knocked down easy. We come back and get what we want, and I could see my two younger brothers and third, youngest brother following in the same footsteps," said Mason Kilcarr, the first of his clan to win a county or state title.

The Gators got a third place finish from Wes Beattie (182) and a fourth place showing from Trent Kilcarr (120) to tie for seventh with 61 points.

Centennial sophomore Austin Kraisser (145)

Though he was only a freshman last year, Kraisser was crestfallen when he lost, 7-5, in the state finals.

This year, when he bested North Hagerstown's previously undefeated senior Brendon Colbert, 3-1, Kraisser was all business.

"For me I think, 'Hey, it's just another win. Stay confident, keep grinding.' This isn't my last goal. I want to keep winning through high school and set an example," said Kraisser, who is also a standout football and lacrosse player for Centennial. "I'm supposed to win. That's my job, that's what I came here to do."

Kraisser, who is now 78-5 through two years of high school wrestling, used his quickness to score the winning takedown near the edge of the mat with 70 seconds left, then held off a deep takedown chance by Colbert as time expired.

"I've got to thank my brother (four-time state champion Nathan Kraisser) definitely. He's taught me so much about how you keep moving, keep wrestling, never stop, and just get in those funky positions, get height and try to come out on top," said Kraisser, whose father and coach Cliff won a state title for Centennial in 1983. "I saw the clock. He got in and I locked my hands. I said 'If I lock my hands I win the state title. If I don't let go I win.' ... I'm finally among those guys that won a state title. I won a lot in junior league, but that's nothing compared to high school."

Kraisser pinned his way to the state title match.

Oakland Mills junior Jaron Smith (160)

Smith was Howard County's only representative on the 2A/1A side of the arena, but he did enough to make his school and county beam with pride, controlling Century senior Wes Dantzler, 8-2.

"It feels great to be a part of (Oakland Mills) history," said Smith, who now has 87 career wins. "Now I'm looking for two."

One month ago, Smith's season was looking much more bleak. Already recovering from an ACL tear over the summer and subsequent surgery, an ice treatment left Smith with foot drop, a dehabilitating condition that left him hobbled for the match against Century.

"He's been doing nothing but working his way back. That's one quality kid right there, he's special," coach Brad Howell said. "I've coached a lot of tough kids, but he's the toughest ...  I wouldn't put anybody against him and think they're going to come out on top. He's the type of kid who stays up late and gets his homework done. He'll push through adversity, never complains about anything. He can wrestle injured. But the other things like taking care of his family, getting home on time. After practice he goes to the extra practice and then goes to physical therapy. He is tough."

Smith led Oakland Mills to a sixth place finish with 65 team points.

Howard senior Jared Rodriguez (182)

It never looks easy for Howard's Jared Rodriguez, and he wouldn't want it any other way.

The senior, who placed third in the county last year and did not earn a spot on the podium at the state tournament, scored an escape with 45 seconds left to defeat North Hagerstown's JD McKoy, 5-4. In the semifinals, Rodriguez beat county rival Wes Beattie of Reservoir in overtime.

"The best way to win a wrestling match is to wrestle all six minutes," said Rodriguez, who also beat Beattie in overtime for the Howard County title two weeks ago. "The mental part of it and being in good condition, that's what wins matches, at least for me."

Rodriguez placed sixth in the county as a sophomore, and broke through last year with 33 wins, but winning a state title still seemed like a long shot coming into this season.

"It would have sounded a little far fetched at first, but with a little bit of work to back it up I would have thought it was very possible," he said. "It feels great, it feels like all the hard work I've put in the past three years really shows."

Rodriguez becomes Howard's third state champion, joining Mingo Grant (2005) and Angello Bavetto (1982, 1983).

"I really hope that the program can use this as a driving force to continue to get better in the future," Rodriguez said. "Now when they hear "Howard High School," people won't say "Who's that?" They're going to know who it is."

Rodriguez injured both of his shoulders at the end of last season.

"It's a blessing for me to be wrestling. Last year around this time the doctor told me I had two torn labrums ... I just did rehab and really focused on my goal which was to be able to wrestle, and when I reached that goal I set a higher goal: to be a state champion."

River Hill senior Logan Kirby (195)

With three county titles and a team state tournament title on his list of accomplishments already, Kirby didn't have much left to prove at the high school level before heading off to wrestle for Harvard next season.

But with his 8-4 win over Roosevelt's previously undefeated Casey Wokocha, Kirby finally got the one thing he was still looking for: a state championship.

"I was super motivated. I really wanted to step up this year, I had the practice partners ... Coach Lauer pushed us to the next level in practice. Everyone on the team pushed each other," said Kirby, who won 137 matches in his River Hill career, but lost twice in the state finals. "I'm so excited to be able to finally say that. My brother (Cameron) was a finalist twice."

As a captain, Kirby was equally as proud to see Beck and Daniel win their titles.

"It's a great thing for us to say, we had a good bond ... our teammates had a lot of faith in us," said Kirby, who napped on the family couch and showered to freshen up for the finals. "We were able to solidify their faith by all three (winning state championships) which was huge."

River Hill senior Cory Daniel (220)

With 84 consecutive wins, including a 2013 state title, coming into the state tournament, Daniel had a huge target on his back. But the University of North Carolina-bound senior was anything but easy prey.

Daniel did not allow an offensive point in the tournament, and controlled Northern-Calvert's Kyle Lamond in the finals, 6-0.

"I wrestled him last year at states. He's a good, tough kid. He's strong. He fights. He battles," said Daniel, who is River Hill's all-time wins leader with 161. "I was just able to pull it out at the end ... I just wanted to finish my four matches in high school very strong and get the job done. Last year I was really nervous at this time. This year I just had to get a nap in earlier, I ate well, I came in ready to go, feeling loose and good."

Daniel said that he got a boost from an on-campus meal midway between the semifinals and finals.

"I went to the student union earlier today and had Panda Express," said Daniel, who expects to wrestle heavyweight for the Tarheels next year. "Chicken, rice and pasta. It was very good."

Daniel is the Hawks' third multiple state championship winner, joining coach Brandon Lauer (1998-2000) and Scott Mantua (2007-2008).

"I'm glad I get to be a part of that elite group ... I'm glad to have wrestled these last four years at River Hill. It's been an honor," said Daniel, who is also a three-time county champion. "My coaches and fans, my brother (Brady), my family, especially my dad (Jack) ... He's been a huge impact on me and my success and I want to dedicate all of this to him."

2A/1A state wrestling championships
160: Oakland Mills junior Jaron Smith (15-1) dec. Century senior Wes Dantzler (36-4), 8-2.

4A/3A state wrestling championships
120: River Hill senior Michael Beck (45-2) vs. Mt. Hebron junior Jeff Hayden (36-6), 5-2.
132: Reservoir senior Mason Kilcarr (36-1) vs. North Hagerstown junior Hunter Faith (39-3), 5-0.
145: Centennial sophomore Austin Kraisser (38-1) vs. North Hagerstown senior Brendon Colbert (43-1), 3-1.
152: Churchill senior Hunter Sutton (47-0) dec. Wilde Lake senior Malik Jackson (38-3), 5-3.
182: Howard senior Jared Rodriguez (41-3) dec. North Hagerstown senior JD McKoy (42-2), 5-4.
195: River Hill senior Logan Kirby (46-1) dec. Roosevelt senior Casey Wokocha (25-1), 8-4.
220: River Hill senior Cory Daniel (46-0) dec. Northern-Calvert senior Kyle Lamond (32-2), 6-0.