Expectations were high for Dunbar this season, but to this point not much had gone as planned a year after reaching the 1A-2A state dual finals for the first time in school history.
That is, until late Friday night, when the Poets finally seemed to put everything together and crowned a tournament-high four champions to win the Warpath Invitational at Franklin High School with 171.5 points.
Owings Mills (146.5), Hereford (145), Mt. Hebron (106) and Linganore (105) rounded out the top five teams of the tournament, which was altered to include first-round single-elimination and was shortened to one day because of expected inclement weather on Saturday.
"We've had injuries, a lot of guys back and forth from the lineup, but I told them that we're going to make our rounds in the tournaments," Dunbar coach Doug McClain said. "I tell them everyday to keep the intensity up and you'll show the progress in these tournaments. We live for these kinds of opportunities."
The Poets' Jemar Cannon (160 pounds), Dwayne Johnson (182), Jorden Pryor (220) and William Smith (285) all won by fall to win their titles, and Will Lomax (113) and De'airus Carr (132) placed second.
Pryor, who improved to 22-1, stuck New Town's Gerard Nutter in 51 seconds and was named the tournament's most outstanding upper-weight wrestler. Arundel senior and defending state champion Nathan Gainey (120) won the most outstanding lightweight award.
"We only got a few people and we don't have a full lineup, but we're practicing everyday to get through these tournaments," said Pryor, who placed fifth at the state tournament last season. "Hard work pays off. ... The whole school is going to be going wild."
The Golden Eagles had five reach the finals, with Alex DuFour (106, pin), regional champion Tyson McDuffy (126, technical fall) and state champion David Hollingsworth (152, major decision) emerging victorious.
"I think we've done well and we're growing as the season goes," said Owings Mills coach Shawn Girch. "We definitely have a few disappointments with some kids who we thought could do well — the single elimination hurt us — but overall ... I'm proud of what they've done."
Hollingsworth had 10 takedowns in a 22-10 victory over Linganore's Michael Bromley in the championship to remain undefeated on the year (29-0) and win his third straight Warpath Invitational title. He is 74-2 over the last two seasons, 141-12 in his career and is eight wins shy of breaking the school record for wins held by Steve Kessler, who went 148-0 and is one of five Maryland public-school wrestlers to win four state titles.
"I think it goes without saying that his goals are to win states again and to constantly push kids that he's wrestling with," Girch said of Hollingsworth, a senior. "I'm happy that he got better as the matches went on, but he definitely has a few things he needs to work on ... but his ultimate goal is to be a two-time state champion."
Centennial, which placed sixth with 96.5 points, had a pair of champions in Jacob Blyukher (132) and defending state champion Jason Kraisser (138).
Blyukher, a junior who won the same tournament title as a freshman and finished third last year, trailed Carr by five points early in the first period but came out on top after a scramble and secured the fall in 1:27 with an arm-bar to improve to 18-3 on the season. Kraisser faced Gilman's Braeden Alevizatos for the second time this season, and after holding Alevizatos down through the entire second period, he secured a reversal with just over a minute left to pull out a 2-0 victory. Kraisser (26-1) won the matchup, 9-0, in the consolation finals of the Mount Mat Madness tournament on Dec. 30.
"It means a lot to me. I didn't feel as well as I did at Mount Mat Madness, but I still felt like I wrestled well and controlled and paced the match a little bit," said Kraisser, who won the same tournament year as a freshman. "I knew he would be fighting with everything he had to get out and I was trying to keep him down, trying to get my near fall, but mainly just ride tough."
Gainey, meanwhile, dominated Bulls senior Jimmy Cavin, building a 10-1 lead after one period and an 18-5 advantage before notching the fall in 5:19. He pinned all three of his opponents and improved to 21-4 on the year.
"It is a confidence booster. I mean, I know I'm getting back into my style of wrestling," he said. "I'm working hard and I take it all in, but I still like to humble myself a little bit and know I still have a lot more to work on."
Franklin freshman Phil Smith (113) was the only champion from the host school but he certainly made it count, as he led 9-0 when he pinned Lomax in 4:30 to keep his undefeated season intact (23-0). He credits his coaching staff for his unblemished record — one he says he didn't expect at this point in the season — but said his goals are now set on winning a state title.
"I have a lot of coaching. I go to a lot of practices, do a lot of hard work with my dad and coaches," he said. "[Lomax is] a good wrestler; I've wrestled him before in junior league. I just had to go out there and get it done."
Mt. Hebron senior Jimmy Hayden (145) had a breakthrough moment, as his pin of Hereford's Jimmy Kells in 4:17 gave him his firs varsity tournament victory. His older brother Jeff, a two-time state runner-up, also won his first varsity tournament at Franklin his senior year in 2015.
"It was amazing. I've worked really hard this season and I felt like if I could get him to the third period I could tire him out," said Hayden, who moved to 19-1 on the season. "I was working hard on top and if I can get a guy in a cradle I'm going to pin him. I'm pretty confident about that."
Gilman's Jeremy Cranston (170) knocked off top-seeded Earl Little of Owings Mills to win his title. He won by fall in 4:53.
106: Alex DuFour (OM, 20-4 record) pinned DeShaun Hunter (Lan, 6-1), 3:55
113: Phil Smith (Fra, 23-0) pinned William Lomax (Dun, 8-1), 4:30
120: Nathan Gainey (Aru, 21-4) pinned Jimmy Cavin (Here, 17-2), 5:19
126: Tyson McDuffy (OM, 27-2) tech fall Andrew Kilgore (Here, 8-6), 18-3
132: Jacob Blyukher (Cen, 18-3) pinned Da'airus Carr (Dun, 12-2), 1:27
138: Jason Kraisser (Cen, 26-1) dec. Braeden Alevizatos (Gil, 16-3), 2-0
145: Jimmy Hayden (MH, 19-1) pinned Jimmy Kells (Here, 23-2), 4:17
152: David Hollingsworth (OM, 29-0) major dec. Michael Bromley (Lin, 21-7), 22-10
160: Jemar Cannon (Dun, 19-4) pinned Dalton Pearl (Lin, 19-8), 5:07
170: Jeremy Cranston (Gil, 21-5) pinned Earl Little (OM, 20-9), 4:53
182: Dwyane Johnson (Dun, 21-2) pinned Robert Garrett (Fra, 13-5), 6-1
195: Cameron Hoppman (Roc, 17-0) pinned Lucas Shapiro (Cen, 16-8), 0:31
220: Jorden Pryor (Dun, 22-1) pinned Gerard Nutter (NT), 0:51
285: William Smith (Dun, 21-3) pinned Andrew Bikay (OM, 24-5), 5:51
106: Riley Sheehy (Lin) dec. Joe Chaves (Aru), 7-3
113: Gorsha Reitterer (Lan) pinned Thomas Whittier (GP), 2:46
120: Jonathan Cabrera (Roc) dec. Liam Pence (MV), 7-2
126: Drew Franklin (Gil) pinned Adam Scherr (MH), 2:56
132: Zach McAleer (MV) dec. Cade Hudson (Here), 5-1
138: Ryan Godfrey (Here), dec. Carlos Carrasquillo (Roc), 7-4
145: Telfer Agard (EW) pinned Joey Bromley (Lin), 5:56
152: Avery Thurman (Dun) major dec. Ariq Nixon (EW), 17-6
160: Ammar Narmouq (Cen) dec. Wise Allah (Ran), 8-4
170: Caleb Wilson (GP) pinned Tristan Verbin-Hedger (Lin), 1:11
182: Jamaal Abdullah Aleem (Ran) dec. Diondre Space (OM), 2-1
195: Jonathan Morris (Lin) dec. Shaber Ahmad (MH), 7-2
220: Troy Gladney (Here) dec. Ryan Jongezoon (Lin), 8-3
285: Troy Warner (MV) pinned Antonio McNeely (Fra), 2:33