Connelly, Arundel catch hold of big prize 160-pounder helps Wildcats outpoint Sherwood, 93-86; 3A-4A Wrestling


After running his record to 35-0 and becoming his school's first unbeaten 3A-4A state champ, Arundel's top-ranked 160-pounder Rob Connelly was an emotional, tearful mess.

For not only had Connelly's 11-6 decision over Eastern Tech's Hector Santana (31-3) made him Arundel's eighth ninth state champ under 30-year coach Buddy Hepfer, but he also secured the Maryland Wrestling Hall of Fame member's second open tournament crown since 1985. It is Hepfer's third title, counting last year's 3A-4A state duals win.

Junior teammates Pat Ortman (119, 31-5) heavyweight Jeff Blachly (22-4) were second, and Graham Harris (145, fifth) and Brian Schroeder (125, sixth) also placed as Arundel (93 points) dethroned last year's champ, Sherwood of Montgomery County, which finished with 86 points.

"The feeling's indescribable. Coach Hepfer's a hard-working guy. very deserving," said Connelly, who was third at states last year. "We won the dual-meet states last year, but Old Mill did it this year. We wanted to keep both titles in the county."

Ortman, knocked out in the first round of last year's event, dropped a 6-0 decision to two-time champ Bobby Monday of Sherwood.

For third-place Old Mill, junior Chris Combs (112, 24-2) grabbed his second championship, bouncing Bladensburg's Kevin Bryant (34-2) in a 12-5. Combs was hoping to face Meade's Matt Pandullo, who dethroned him for last week's region title, but Bryant upset him in the semifinals.

"Bryant's tough, but that's two. Now I want one more," said Combs. "It bothers us that we didn't win overall, but we beat Arundel for the county's [title] and we'll be there next year."

North Carroll had two champs in Adam Boog (171, 30-3) and freshman Fran Jackson (103, 32-2). Boog hammered Northern's Jimmy Stone (33-2), 14-3, as Stone was tournament runner-up for the second straight year. But Jackson brought the crowd to its feet with a dominant, 7-2, victory over Quince Orchard's top-ranked Bryan Santangelo (31-2).

"Making the finals in the toughest weight, I said the heck with it, I don't have anything to lose," said Jackson, 15, who became only the second North Carroll freshman to win a state title -- Danny Thomas won in 1986. "I thought he'd come out on top. I don't

know what his previous competition was, but once I put him on his back, it took something out of him."

Parkville's Dave Heath (135) completed a remarkable 35-0 run to become his school's first champ. Ranked fourth in the state, Heath overcame a 5-4 deficit against Sherwood's third-ranked Anthony Gigliotti (24-2) on a duck-under takedown with 16 seconds left.

Heath, beaten in last year's first round, has pinned five of his past nine foes and has given up only two points in that time. Two weeks ago, he became Parkville's first Baltimore County champ since Joe Tartle (1989), and also won the regional title last weekend.

"He was physical, so I matched him. Didn't want him to think I was afraid of him. He was trying the headlock, so his arm was high for the duck," said Heath, a county runner-up and third-place regional finisher last year who never wrestled junior leagues.

North County's unranked WT Aye (152) handled Frederick's No. 2-ranked Ivan Zdanov (32-3) by 9-5 to become his school's first state champ. Aye (28-2) also completed a season in which an ear injury caused him to miss part of the Howard County tournament. At various times, he was ranked No. 1 in the state and then unranked.

"Rankings don't mean anything until you get here, but this feels great after being sick for the past week, missing two practices," said Aye, who did not place at last year's tournament. "Coach Larry Radford and I have been through a lot. He and my teammates, my school, they've all been there for me."

Bel Air heavyweight Jeremiah Albright (25-0), who missed the first five weeks of the season due to an knee injury, scored a 10-4 decision over Arundel's Blachly to become the Bobcats' first champ since Scott Birth in 1992.

For Aberdeen, junior Matt Kunkel (189) dropped to 30-2 after Linganore's top-ranked George O'Brien (35-0) countered his takedown attempt for a 4-2 overtime win. His top-ranked teammate, James Axel (130, 32-1), looked to improve on last year's runner-up effort but was upset by Sherwood's eventual champ Frank Edwards in the semfinals and wrestled back to third place.

Pub Date: 3/08/98

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