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Lions draw inspiration from memory of teammate


All is not completely well with the Liberty wrestling program, but the outlook is a little better than last season at this time.

Second-year coach Jeff Hash is starting to see some of his disciplinary measures accepted by the wrestlers and there is some experience in the lineup.

Also, the Lions have come together to dedicate the season to Anthony Omelio, the team's top wrestler last season.

Omelio, a second-team All-Carroll choice as a junior at 103 pounds, died in a car accident last summer and the pain from his loss is still very evident among his teammates.

Junior Brian Seifert has especially been affected by Omelio's death, as he returns to the team after being ineligible as a sophomore.

Seifert and Omelio were close friends and Seifert has stepped forward to replace Omelio at 112 pounds this season. Omelio would have moved up to 112 from 103.

"Being at 112 means a lot to Brian," said Hash. "He has vowed to do everything he can this season on the mat in honor of Anthony."

Seifert and his teammates will wear a black patch on their left shoulder strap to pay tribute to Omelio.

"We're dedicating the season to Anthony's tragedy," said Hash. "Our kids have turned a negative into a positive. There's a lot of emotional healing in them over his tragedy."

Seifert and seniors Phil Youssi (152 pounds) and Mike Durgin (160) are the top wrestlers in the Liberty lineup. Youssi was 18-6 last seasonand Durgin was 14-14.

Hash's attempts to establish a strong junior-league feeder system in the Eldersburg-Sykesville area already has paid one dividend in freshman Joe Smith, who will go at 103 pounds.

"He was very successful at the junior-league level," said Hash of Smith. "He possesses a lot of talent, quickness and strength."

Other wrestlers who should earn their share of points for Liberty are senior Eddie Morrell (15-10 at 140 last season), junior Doug Berrich (125), sophomore Brandon Wagner (119), junior Dave Phillips (130) and senior Brandon Rothschild (135).

There is also a possible diamond in the rough in senior football star Brian Berling, who is out for wrestling for the first time and is set for 189-pound competition.

"Brian could be another Pat Quinn [graduated Liberty standout at 189 last season]," said Hash.

If Berling comes through and senior Andy Sunnell bounces back from a troubled junior season, Liberty might show marked improvement over last season.

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