Try as he might, Owings Mills wrestling coach Guy Pritzker has trouble playing down the talent on this year's team.
Returning are two-time All-Metro and state champ Steve Kessler (145-152 pounds, 72-0 career), region champ, county runner-up Willie Broadnax (189, 24-6), who was third in the state, Ari Dolid (140-145, 29-4), who was third in the county and region, and both Steve Kellner (125, third region) and Anthony Smith (Hwt., fourth region).
Pritzker has veterans Erik Walder (103), Danny Selnick (130, 12-4) and Shaun Andoll (171), junior leaguers Billy Miller (112, state champ) and Drew Bowers (119, 35-1, 20 pins), and junior varsity champs Richie Frieman (135), Justin Hansen (135), Nick Nolte (140), Mark McVicker (152) and Haden Myers (160).
"We're a pretty good team if the right commitment and maturity comes through," said Pritzker.
Last year the Eagles of Baltimore County's 1A-2A Division III won their third state title in the last five years and also have captured three county and five regional crowns in that span.
Joel Webber's state dual regional finalist Pikesville (13-3 last year) has experienced some key injuries. But among Webber's nine returning starters are county champ Chad Hipsley (171, 36-2, second at states) and 20-match winner Hale Shilling (103), and Webber's two sons, sophomore Jonathan (135) and Jason (152, fourth region).
Academic ineligibility kept Towson junior Ken Knapp (160, 21 wins) off the mats last year. As a sophomore, Knapp was county champ and third in the regions. Milford Mill returns junior county champ Greg Forbes (189, 32-5, third region).
1A-2A Division IV
Hereford (11-2 last year) has replaced retired coach James Long with John Billingsly, who looks to seniors Chip Nassau (103), Aaron Seiler (125) and Mike Reidy (145). JV county champ Pat Curtis (119) and JV runners-up Jason Smith (130), Jeff Schroeder (152) and Rob Collins (160) add depth.
The county's only other returning All-Metro state champ is Sparrows Point's Tommy Free (119), whose career record is 52-2 (33-0 last year). Also back is teammate Mike Young (130, 24-3, third region).
Overlea's three solid wrestlers are Cory Scott (119, 27-9), Nat Paloma (125, 21 wins) and Randallstown transfer Rob Watkins (152, 25-9). Scott was second in the county and region, Watkins third in county, fourth in region, and Paloma fourth in both.
3A-4A Division II
Dulaney (14-2 last year) and Eastern Tech (10-3) have a leg up on Randallstown and Woodlawn, though Dulaney, coached by Pete Chakmakas, likely will miss county champ Damon Holmes (160, knee injury) early on. But the Kopalchick brothers, sophomore region runner-up Pat (152, 27-7) and junior Scott (160) return after being county runner-up.
Among Dulaney's 50-wrestler turnout were Aslan Ettehdieh (112, fourth county, third region), junior Ben Bulloch (125, third county), sophomore Tom McGinley (119, 17 wins) and JV place-winners Ryan Frost (Hwt., first) and Ryan Burdette (103, second).
Eastern Tech coach Joe Gast sees potential in junior Jamie Blankenship (189, third county) and senior Ricky Rowan (119-125). Junior leaguers Demetrios Gourgoulianis (112), Jason Roberts (135), Woodard brothers Dave (140) and Wes (145), and JV county champ Hector Santana (160) and Julius Franks (171, third JV) show promise.
3A-4A Division I
Kenwood (8-5 last year) blends varsity talent with junior league recruits under 20-year coach Len Patrick. Senior Brad Thomas (112, 23-7) was a county runner-up and placed fourth in the region, and senior Terry Hagy (140, 23-7), a four-year veteran, was third in county and regions. Sophomore Brian Mallory (171) amassed 23 wins and was fourth in the region.
Talented juniors Chuck Jones (125, 18-1 last year) and Terry Tyler (119, 16-1) return, and Micah Mitchell (130) was last year's junior league state runner-up. Kenwood heavyweight Jason Thompson weighs 275 pounds.
Perry Hall's first-year coach Bobby Kucharski, at his alma mater, has seniors Pete Gerst (112, 16 wins), Austin Kim (171, 26-7) and junior Nick Sidiropoulos (119, 28-6). Kim was a runner-up in the county and regions, Sidiropoulos fourth in county, third in region, and Gerst fourth in region.
Dundalk returns county champ Dan Simancek (125, 29-4), a two-time region champ and three-time state place-winner, Travis Williams (130, 20 wins, fourth region) and Chris Nixon (145, 18 wins, fourth region).
Franklin's first-year coach, Scott Delpo, from Patterson, has Avi Meier (112), Tim Groszkowski (140), JV runner-up George Bertsch (250 pounds) and former junior leaguer Adam Krawczyk (160).