Although Chopticon edged Southern, 140-131.5, for Saturday's Class 2A/1A Region III wrestling tournament title, the Bulldogs qualified eight of their nine competing wrestlers for next weekend's state tournament at Westminster's Western Maryland College.

Southern's Jason Braithwait (28-1-1), the state's No. 2-ranked 152-pounder, won his second straight regional title with three pins and a forfeit.

Teammate Chris Boston (160) improved to 27-4 by defeating Chopticon's Deric Holbrook, 11-2, in the championship bout. Boston, who won the county title last week, also grabbed a 6-4 semifinal victory overHammond's Ricky Matthews, the Howard County champion.

Sherrard Neal (103), KeithTrader (125), David Ley (140) and heavyweight Robert Burley (24-5) were runners-up. Matt Offer (171) was third and Steven Tisdale (112) fourth.

"We regrouped after the counties. My son (Sherrard Neal) and our 171-pounder didn't even wrestle in the county tournament and now they're going to the states," said first-year coach Neal, whose Bulldogs were a disappointing sixth in the county tournament.

"To go to the regionals with nine guys and have eight qualify for the states -- yeah, that makes me happy."

Earlier in the season, Neal had watched Chopticon dethrone champion South River in the Bulldog Invitational tournament, 212.5-183. Southern finished third with only 177.5

points, so Neal was hoping for a better performance -- and got it -- in the regional.

After Boston's victory, the Bulldogstrailed by just 4.5 points and needed at least a major decision fromBurley to win the title.

But Burley dropped a 2-0 decision to Chopticon's No. 2-ranked John Scheer. It was Burley's second straight loss to a top-ranked wrestler. Burley lost last week's county title by the same score to Old Mill's Don Marco -- who is tied for second in the Maryland State Wrestling Association rankings with Scheer.

The Bulldogs lost the title to Hammond by just one point last year.

Northeast (33 points) was 11th in the 12-team field and will send regional runner-up Kevin Shepke (152) and third place Al Grunder (140) to the state tournament.

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