With the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association's state wrestling tournament coming up Friday and Saturday at College Park, teams and individuals are fine-tuning their skills. But unlike other high school sports such as football and basketball, players from different teams can be found practicing with their strongest competition.
In Howard County, River Hill, one of three teams in the state sending 11 wrestlers to the state tournament (Owings Mills and La Plata are the other two) will practice with five qualifiers from Centennial and Howard's 130-pounder Kris Dutt, the only Lion to qualify for states.
"It's not that unusual in wrestling," Owings Mills coach Guy Pritzker said. "It's done all the time after the county tournaments or regionals. Some teams only have one or two kids and this is a way they can keep fit."
Pritzker said in the past his teams have practiced with Westminster and North Carroll, and this season it worked with Sparrows Point and Milford Mill before the regionals.
"It's one of the nice things about this sport," he said. "The kids in it get to know each other more than in any other team sports. They spend whole weekends together at tournaments. You've seen them sitting on the side of the mats talking to each other. It's funny, in the 112 class, [River Hill's] Scott Mantua and my kid, Avi Friedman, are supposed to meet in the state finals and they're supposed to hate each other. But they're good friends. They've been wrestling each other since they were 7 years old."
Other individual sports such as tennis sometimes pool practices after the regional tournaments, but Harford County's coordinator of athletics, Ken Zorbach, said the group practices are most effective for wrestling.
"A tennis team can have its own players stick around to work with a state qualifier if need be," he said. "But wrestling is different because of the different weight classes. Each kid needs someone in his own weight class to practice with. The other benefit from wrestlers joining together for practice is that they can get direction from two or three different coaches."
Another title in sight
The No. 2 St. Frances boys basketball team put together impressive back-to-back weekends with tournament titles in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference and the Baltimore Catholic League.
But the Panthers (31-3) aren't finished yet.
Right after the BCL crown was in the books, the talk was focused on the 48th annual Alhambra Catholic Invitational. St. Frances and No. 4 Calvert Hall received invitations to the prestigious tournament, which will be March 19-21 at Frostburg State outside Cumberland.
"It feels good [to win the MIAA and BCL], but we still have the Alhambra. So we can celebrate this for a while and then we got to get back in the gym and get ready for the Alhambra," said St. Frances senior forward Terrell Vinson, who was Most Valuable Player of the BCL tournament.
It's all cricket
Students from Cardinal Gibbons have worked in recent months to grow local interest in the largely foreign sport of cricket. On Saturday, they received a major boost when the president of the U.S.A. Cricket Association visited practice.
Gladstone Dainty, head of the sport's U.S. governing body, told players their efforts will play a major role in moving cricket into the mainstream of American sports.
"It underlines the significance of what we're doing," Gibbons coach Jamie Harrison said. "If cricket is ever to go from being a niche sport to being a mainstream sport, it has to crack into the American-born market. This might be the first all-American-born cricket team in decades."
Gibbons soon might get company, as well as competition, with both Loyola and John Carroll in the process of beginning teams.
Cooke hits 1,000
Winters Mill All-Metro guard Cassie Cooke scored her 1,000th career point late last month after recovering from a knee injury that sidelined her for three games over a two-week period.
The senior, who led the Lions to the state Class 2A semifinals last season, where they lost by a point to eventual champ Mount Hebron, had 1,084 points heading into last night's regional quarterfinal game at Century. Fighting flu, she played only a little more than a half and scored 28 points in Friday night's first-round 67-34 win over Rockville.
State finals on-demand
If you can't make it to the state basketball championships March 14, you can still watch the games.
The boys and girls state finals will be available on-demand at watchssn.com.
The MPSSAA has contracted with Scholastic Sports Net to show all state championships through the end of the 2009-10 school year. Although they won't stream live, they will all be available on-demand.
"It's an opportunity for more exposure for kids and some of the highlights of the good things that are happening in our schools," said Ned Sparks, executive director of the MPSSAA.
Friends and family who live far away can still catch state wrestling, indoor track and swimming championships, which were contested last month.