Arundel wrestling coach Buddy Hepfer has made a habit of downplaying the talent on his teams, as he did before last night's Arundel Holiday tournament.
The 24th-year coach was up to his old tricks again, even after his Wildcats (175.5 points) had won last night's 15th annual affair over a 10-team field that included West Virginia's Independence (164.5, second), which placed third in its state tournament last year, and No. 15 Chesapeake (127.5, third).
No. 9 Arundel crowned No. 3 Phil Meenan (119, 10-1), Isaac Haertel (140, 10-1 ), Mark Chesla (152, 10-1), Jon Saverence (171) and No. 4 John Noon (heavyweight, 11-0).
"Did you really think we'd win this? I seriously didn't," said Hepfer of his 5-0 Wildcats. Arundel won last year as well, 217.5-216 over Dundalk.
Meenan (seven pins) won, 11-3, over Independence's previously unbeaten Kevin Acord (10-1, six pins). Haertel, a freshman with seven pins, won, 4-3, in overtime over Dirk Snuffer (Independence), who was fourth in West Virginia's states last year.
"I was thinking I needed to stay away from tie ups during neutral positions," said Haertel, who watched Snuffer's 4-2 semifinal win over Chesapeake's No. 6 Doug Horton.
"I think I wanted him down on the mat," Haertel, who trailed, 2-0. "I controlled him well down there, which won the match."
Noon (eight pins) increased his series lead to 4-1 over North County's Corey Fowler (9-3) with a 5-0 decision. Fowler's only victory came when he edged Noon for last year's county title.
"It seems like whoever doesn't make a mistake in our match is the one who wins," said Noon, a county and regional runner-up.
"Tonight, he slipped off of a couple of moves and I caught him. I don't think it's getting any easier though."
"The kids really wrestled their buns off," Hepfer said. "I'm very surprised."
Meenan was coming off a 1-0 loss to Severna Park's No. 2 Jamie Kuch and was in need of a confidence-boosting win.
"I don't really think I should have lost to him, but he beat me on an escape," said Meenan, who was third in the states two years ago. "I just beat an undefeated guy from West Virginia, which feels pretty good. I'm looking forward to the rest of the season."
Repeat champs for visiting Independence, coached by former Chesapeake High mentor Ed Gilson, were state runner-up Cliff Warden (189, 11-0), Jeff Taylor (145, 10-1) and Jeremy Scarafino (130). Other champs were Golden Green (135) and Jeremy Hart (112), who is 97-0 over the last season and a half.
Despite weighing only 99.5 pounds, Chesapeake's Travis Gottlich (103, 11-2) earned a 3-2 win over Centennial's Lance Rhodes (10-5, six pins).
For C. Milton Wright, Vince Tuciarrella (125, 8-0) picked up his eighth pin in 3:11 of his title bout. Meade's Adam Butts (160, 11-3) got his 10th pin of the year just 16 seconds into the title bout.