WRESTLER OF THE YEAR
It was the most improbable state-title run the county has seen in a long, long time -- a story that got better with each passing weekend. Tippett, a 189-pound senior who hadn't wrestled since his freshman season, finally agreed to join the team at coach Bill Royer's urging in mid-January. That weight class was never the same after. Athletic and relentless, Tippett caught up to speed in a hurry, winning county and regional crowns before saving his very best for last. At his first state tournament, Tippett eased his way to the semifinal round, where he pinned Northern Calvert's highly-touted senior Matt Parsons in the first period. And then, up against Patapsco's junior standout, Eric Hood, in the championship, he scored a takedown with three seconds left to score an 8-6 win. "It was crazy," said Tippett, who had extensive junior-league experience. "The kid was strong, and I didn't want to go into overtime with him. I shot with 10 seconds left and the clock was right there -- I saw it counting down 5, 4, 3, 2. ... I just thought, 'I cannot believe I did it.'" It didn't surprise Royer, to whom Tippett (17-1) is quick to give credit. "The kid's a winner," Royer said. "He has great athletic ability. He came in and did everything we asked of him."
COACH OF THE YEAR
A perennial state power, the Patriots had a different view at the start of the season. With defending Class 4A-3A state champion Chesapeake loaded and Severna Park fast on the rise, the Patriots -- unranked and minus eight starters from the season before -- were clearly looking up at the others. By season's end, No. 7 Old Mill (14-2-1) was the team looking down from the podium, winning the program's state-record seventh 4A-3A state tournament title. In his second season, Grim had starting points in returnees Josh Baynham, William Bell and Doug West, but also eight first-year varsity wrestlers to work with. "In the beginning, we were taking baby steps. But from Day One, we preached county, regional and states and made sure to peak at the end of the year," he said. After placing no better than fifth in three tough tournaments, the Patriots put it all together as planned with county, regional and state titles. Baynham, Bell and West all scored big points in the state tournament with runner-up finishes to lead the way as expected. But it was 135-pound senior newcomer Jude Ayanleye, who took fifth to get needed points, that best exemplified how far Grim brought his team along.
Severna Park, senior
Unorthodox is one word often used to describe Babington's wrestling style. Effective is another. He closed out a sturdy four-year varsity career by capturing his first county and regional titles and placing fourth at states. Babington, who went 27-8 with 20 pins this season at 160 pounds, enjoyed a decision over Arundel 171-pound state champion Justin Tippett and closed out his career with 90 wins.
Old Mill, senior
His contributions on the mat this season -- a 35-5 record with county and regional titles to go with a state runner-up finish at 130 pounds -- spoke volumes. He, too, spoke volumes. The Patriots came into the season with eight starters lost to graduation and left with their state-record seventh 4A-3A state title. Baynham, a four-year starter with 104 career wins, stepped forward as the vocal leader to complement his intensity on the mat.
Old Mill, senior
Quiet and humble off the mat, Bell was fierce on it. The Patriots' heavyweight may have come up one point short in a bid for his first state title, losing a 4-3 decision against Severna Park's Brian Payer in the final, but the loss doesn't diminish a fine season. The three-year starter went 33-4 with 18 pins, claiming county and regional titles and helping the 4A-3A state champion Patriots end each match on a positive note.
The centerpiece of the 4A-3A state runner-up Cougars, the standout at 119 pounds continued to be a model of consistency in producing a 31-3 season. He made it three straight county crowns, added a regional title and fell one point short of a state title with a tough 3-2 loss to Churchill's Brandon Shapiro in the championship bout.
Coming in as a state runner-up in the junior-league ranks, Bowser earned instant respect for his work ethic and strong foundation. Just how much? Arundel coach Bill Royer appointed him a team captain. The 103-pound Bowser -- intense, well-conditioned and methodical on the mat -- responded with a fine first season, going 33-3 with county and regional titles along with a fourth-place showing at states.
It was fitting that the 171-pound weight class went to overtime in the county tournament -- that's how tight the competition was all season. Couch, with a sudden-death takedown on North County's John Hostler, came away with a 6-4 decision to win his first crown. Fast for his size, he often relied on throws and a double-leg takedown to finish with a 22-12 mark.
The Eagles' standout at 152 pounds got a lot of mileage out of his three-year varsity career, which included his first county crown this season, two regional titles and 89 wins. Offensive-minded on his feet and a good rider, Dyke went 25-5 and placed fourth at states this season.
No wrestler in the county stayed perfect longer this season than Graham, who rattled off 32 straight wins before dropping an 11-4 decision to Dulaney's Andrew Schlaffer in the 135-pound-class state final. Along the way, the Panthers' three-year starter won his first county and region titles. A workhorse in the practice room with outstanding endurance, Graham was able to go nonstop for six minutes to grind down opponents.
A transfer from Washington state, Moyer found an instant home at the new 215-pound weight class, finishing with a 31-2 mark that included county and regional titles and a second at states. Moyer came to Broadneck with a strong foundation -- particularly strong on his feet -- and a determined focus that made him an immediate leader in the practice room. Before his state-final loss to Northwestern's Chad Nkong, Moyers suffered his only other setback when he bumped up to heavyweight against Severna Park state champ Brian Payer, who scored a 3-1 decision.
South River, sophomore
One of the biggest surprises in the county was Mulry, who turned the corner in his second varsity season to dominate the 112-pound class. After going 21-9 in his freshman season, he enjoyed a 32-2 season with county and regional titles coming his way. Mulry added strength and experience during the offseason to become more physical and confident on the mat. He took a 31-0 record into the state tournament but did not place.
Annap. Area Christian, senior
Dedicated to the sport year-round, the Eagles' standout at 135 pounds made the most of his extra effort with a 34-11 season that put an exclamation mark on a solid four-year career. Pavlischek, who finished with 12 pins, captured his first Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association crown with a 7-5 upset win over McDonogh's highly touted Bryn Holmes. Suffering a mild concussion in the win, Pavlischek won his first match at the private-schools state tournament, but had to default thereafter. He then went 2-2 at National Preps.
Severna Park, senior
The county was stacked with talented heavyweights, and it was Payer who was the last to have his hand raised. After going 0-8 in his career against Old Mill standout William Bell, Payer came away with a 4-3 decision win to capture the 4A-3A state title. Going 27-7 on the season, the 6-foot-5, 270-pound wrestler became the first Falcon to win a state crown since Aaron Cree in 1992.
The Panthers' three-year starter is a true technician, methodical on the mat and continually one move ahead of opponents. Undefeated up to the state tournament, Smith (140) captured his first county title and won his second regional crown before taking fifth at states. Poised and always ready to pounce on a mistake, Graham finished the season with a 31-2 mark.
Severna Park, senior
The Falcons' team captain turned a tireless work ethic and sound fundamental base into 101 wins over four seasons. A three-time state qualifier, Smith won county and regional titles and placed fourth at states this season at 145 pounds to finish with a 34-3 mark. Strong on his feet and a tremendous rider, Smith maximized his strengths to dictate matches. He also won tournament titles at Hammond and Meade.
Old Mill, junior
Tabbed the Patriots' "Little Mat Rat" by coach Jim Grim, the 125-pound standout proved that his extra work in the practice room was time well spent. Poised and polished with exceptional technique, West finished the season 36-4 with county and regional titles to go with a runner-up finish at states to play an integral part in the Patriots' 4A-3A crown. With 104 career wins in his first three seasons, West will take aim at 2001 grad Adam DeCosmo's program-best mark of 136 career wins next season.
Wrestler of the Year: Justin Tippett, Arundel Coach of the Year: Jim Grim, Old Mill First team
Weight Name School Class
103 Justin Bowser Arundel Freshman
112 Andrew Mulry South River Sophomore
119 Corey Bowers Chesapeake Junior
125 Doug West Old Mill Junior
130 Josh Baynham Old Mill Senior
135 Ben Graham Annapolis Junior
135 Justin Pavlischek Annap. Area Christian Senior
140 Andrew Smith Annapolis Junior
145 Steve Smith Severna Park Senior
152 Chris Dyke Northeast Senior
160 Walker Babington Severna Park Senior
171 Jake Couch Chesapeake Sophomore
189 Justin Tippett Arundel Senior
215 Tyler Moyer Broadneck Junior
Hwt. William Bell Old Mill Senior
Hwt. Brian Payer Severna Park Senior
Weight Name School Class
103 Pat McMahon Annap. Area Christian Freshman
103 Lou Ruland St. Mary's Freshman
112 Geoff Clark-Ames Northeast Junior
119 Andrew Stiffler Arundel Junior
125 Steve Yaruta Chesapeake Senior
130 Mike Handleman Arundel Senior
135 Jude Ayanleye Old Mill Sophomore
140 Chris Volker Old Mill Sophomore
145 Brett Cherba Annapolis Senior
152 Seppi Serio Chesapeake Junior
160 Kevin Lehnert Northeast Junior
171 Kris Coby Broadneck Junior
171 John Hostler North County Junior
189 Chad LaPlanche Chesapeake Senior
215 Joe Fold Northeast Senior
Hwt. Alec Eaton Meade Junior
Note: Teams selected by Glenn P. Graham after consultation with The Sun staff and area coaches.