Undefeated Bel Air wrestlers eye a comeback

The Baltimore Sun

Bel Air's last championship in wrestling came when the Bobcats captured the Harford County crown in 2000. Coach Craig Reddish and his wrestlers are hoping to have another banner to hang in the gym after this season.

The senior-laden team posted a 15-6 record through the middle of last week and was undefeated in Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference action. They're hoping for a shot at knocking off defending champion Rising Sun in this year's tournament. The Bobcats finished second last year.

"I'm excited with how our kids are wrestling," Reddish said. "I think it's a senior-heavy team, and we have that experience. They're more comfortable now."

Eight of the 14 Bel Air starters didn't even take up the sport until high school, which is unusual, since many top-level wrestlers begin as early as elementary school. But Reddish said they took their lumps for a few years and learned in practice and in matches.

The Bobcats always have been one of the top UCBAC teams, but were caught in the shadow of Harford Tech for several seasons. Bel Air has won at least 10 matches in 13 of Reddish's 15 seasons as coach.

Consistency has been the key this season. Senior captains Matt Cross (152 pounds, 25-1) and Sean Ellenby (125 pounds, 26-1) have led the way. Cross finished fourth in the state last year and won the UCBAC title at 140 pounds. Ellenby was the conference runner-up at 119.

Seniors Khalid Epps (140/145 pounds, 19-6) and Zach Keller (135 pounds, 18-6) have been strong. Sophomore Donta Leoni (103 pounds, 18-6), freshman Steve Cross (119 pounds, 18-6) and junior Mike Miller (112 pounds, 17-7) give the Bobcats points on a regular basis. That depth will be tested in the post-season tournaments.

"They're starting to believe in themselves," Reddish said. "It's kind of nice. They're becoming confident now."

Their confidence and abilities will be tested at the UCBAC tournament on Feb. 22 and 23 at Aberdeen.

John Carroll indoor track -- John Carroll senior distance runner Erika Stasakova had a record-setting night at last Friday's Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland championship meet. Stasakova set meet records in both the 1,600 (5 minutes, 15.12 seconds) and the 3,200 (11:22.36) and scored easy victories in those races. Her 20 points helped the Patriots finish in fourth place overall. Seton Keough won the meet. "[Stasakova] continually amazes us," John Carroll coach Rob Torres said. "She's one of the most phenomenal runners I've ever had the pleasure of coaching." Stasakova really pointed toward setting the mark in the 3,200, jumping out to a huge lead in the first few laps that no one came close to. She won that race by over 41 seconds. Teammate Elizabeth Tauber got second place in 12:03.43. The record had been previously held by former John Carroll runner Brittany Furst, and it was the mark that Stasakova wanted to break. She did nearly as well in the shorter run, getting challenged later in the race and pulling away for an easy victory. Stasakova has gotten a full scholarship to run for Lafayette. Her next big indoor meet is on state private school championship on Feb. 9 at the Prince George's Sports and Learning Complex.

Edgewood boys basketball -- Harford County Public Schools officials were still conducting an investigation late last week into what happened at the end of the Fallston-Edgewood boys basketball game on Jan. 18. According to a report in The Aegis, Edgewood coach Lamont Pennick was upset over the officiating, received a technical foul in the final minutes and then had his players simply stand at half-court to protest it when play continued. The officials then stopped the game with about 90 seconds left after Fallston scored a pair of baskets. The Cougars were awarded the 68-52 victory that night. School officials said they were speaking with school administrators, coaches and others to get the full story. "He is the basketball coach at Edgewood," said Donald Morrison, director of public information for the Harford County Public Schools. "We take allegations seriously and do a full investigation into situations of this type."

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