Here’s what you need to know for the 2021-22 high school wrestling season in the Baltimore area:
Storylines to watch
Will McDonogh and Mount Saint Joseph still rule the MIAA?
The Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference, a top-heavy league that has featured the Baltimore area’s top wrestling teams for decades now, has long been dominated by two teams: McDonogh and Mount Saint Joseph. Aside from Archbishop Spalding in 2010-11 winning duals and John Carroll claiming the tournament title in 2014-15, either the Eagles or Gaels have won the MIAA every year since 2002. Loyola Blakefield has a legitimate chance to end that streak this season with an ideal mix of former top-notch junior leaguers and experienced seniors who have been in the battles before. Meanwhile, Gilman has some of the state’s best freshmen and sophomores and could be a threat as early as this year.
Can Glenelg finally win it all?
The Gladiators have gone 116-5 in Howard County and 258-37 overall since the 2009-10 season, securing six undefeated county dual meet titles, six county tournament titles (2011, 2013, 2016-18, 2020) and five runner-up dual meet finishes with 10-1 league records. Since the start of the 2015-16 season, Glenelg is 64-2 in one of the deepest leagues around and 122-11 overall. But the Gladiators finished one step short four consecutive years from 2016-17 through 2019-20 as runner-up at the state dual-meet championships. Coach Matt Bichner has high hopes for this year’s team but will need to get through one of the toughest regions in the state — Class 2A West — before potentially seeing Stephen Decatur again in a rematch of the 2020 final.
It’s the beginning of the end for the Kraisser family.
The wrestling community will either cheer or jeer at the thought of yet another Kraisser at Centennial. Calvin Kraisser is a 138-pound freshman at the Ellicott City school and is the last of five sons and six total Kraissers to don the Eagles singlet. In case you forgot about Maryland wrestling’s first family, the Kraissers have combined to win 12 state championships and 15 Howard County titles in 20 total seasons. Combining the career records of Nathan, Austin and Jason, the trio went 465-18 — a winning percentage of .963 — and won 11 state titles across 12 seasons. Cliff, the coach and Kraisser patriarch, said he’s not predicting anything for Calvin.
Will the MPSSAA expand the wrestling postseason?
The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association in September approved the expansion of the state’s high school football playoffs to include all 182 teams qualifying for postseason play to accommodate COVID-related postponements and cancellations during the regular season. That decision left wrestling as the only sport without an open-playoff format. With the rising omicron variant and the fact that wrestling is a high-risk indoor sport, it might make sense for the MPSSAA executive council and the state wrestling committee to give wrestling the same opportunity. Vaccine mandates are not uniform across the board; McDonogh has one, Mount Saint Joseph does not; Howard County and Baltimore City have one, Anne Arundel does not.
Will girls wrestling continue to grow at pre-pandemic levels?
Before the coronavirus wiped out the 2020-21 season for the majority of the state, girls wrestling was on the rise in Maryland. Oakland Mills coach Brad Howell believes the state was on the verge of having a girls-only league to coincide with the regular season before the pandemic came. The state crowned its first girls state champions in 2020 with the first girls state tournament — the 4A/3A, 2A/1A and girls finals at The Show Place Arena took place on three mats and shared the stage — and participation was growing exponentially. Howell said the pandemic might have slowed some of that progress, though 10 of his 40 wrestlers are girls. Big picture, there remains hope a girls-only league isn’t in the too distant future.
Wrestlers to watch
Richard Fedalen, McDonogh, 152 lbs., senior
A double All-American in freestyle and Greco Roman at Junior National Championships this summer, Fedalen is an early front-runner for Wrestler of the Year honors. He’s had an injury-riddled high school career but has proven his capabilities at the national level and is committed to Columbia University.
Joe Fisk, Archbishop Spalding, 152 lbs., senior
Fisk won the MIAA title two years ago and placed second at the private school state tournament and Mount Mat Madness and third at National Preps to finish with a 33-3 mark. He won the Maryland State Wrestling Association unified high school championship in March and owns an official 77-12 career mark.
Carter Nogle, Mount Saint Joseph, 113 lbs., sophomore
Nogle earned All-America status by placing fourth in Greco Roman at the Cadet National Championships this summer in Fargo. In limited action as a freshman, he took second at the National Prep Open.
Coleman Nogle, Mount Saint Joseph, 120 lbs., junior
Nogle, a first team All-Metro pick in 2019, won titles at MIAA, MIS, Mount Mat Madness and Ocean Lakes (Va.) tournaments and placed fourth at National Preps as a freshman, going 41-9 with 32 falls.
Gage Owen, South Carroll, 138 lbs., junior
Owen owns a 56-3 career record after winning the 120-pound title at the 2A/1A state tournament two years ago and going 9-0 with six falls during Carroll County’s shortened 2020-21 season.
Lonnell Owens-Pabon, South River, 220 lbs., senior
Owens-Pabon, a standout football player for the Seahawks, placed third at 170 pounds at the 4A/3A state tournament two years ago as a sophomore and reached the semifinals at the Maryland State Wrestling Association unified high school championship in March before finishing sixth.
Michael Pizzuto, South Carroll, 132 lbs., junior
Pizzuto hasn’t lost a high school match during his career. He went 50-0 as a freshman to win a tough 106-pound bracket at the 2A/1A state tournament and went 9-0 in the shortened 2020-21 winter season in Carroll County.
Brady Pruett, Archbishop Spalding, 126 lbs., senior
Pruett went 29-6 and was first-team All-Metro pick two years ago after winning titles at the MIAA, MIS Mount Mat Madness and Ocean Lakes (Va.) tournaments and placing sixth at National Preps after an injury in the semifinals. He is 80-15 in his two-year varsity career.
AJ Rodrigues, South Carroll, 160 lbs., junior
Rodrigues was the most dominant wrestler during Carroll County’s shortened 2020-21 season, going 10-0 with seven falls. He went 50-2 and won the 126-pound title at the 2A/1A state tournament two years ago.
Amondre Wooden, Owings Mills, 152 lbs., junior
Wooden went 40-6 as a freshman and took second in the 2A/1A North region and third at the 2A/1A state tournament. He beat North Hagerstown’s state champion Thomas Monn at the Maryland State Wrestling Association unified high school championship in March.
Preseason Top 15
1. Mount Saint Joseph
Coach: Harry Barnabae
2019-20 record: 10-1, No. 2
Outlook: The Gaels return a young squad that will be headlined by captains senior Jacob Wright (132), senior Evan Eldridge (126) and junior Coleman Nogle (120). Sophomores Carter Nogle (113) and Bryce Phillips (182) and freshman Nicolas Barnabae (152) will be in the mix for state and high National Preps placement as well.
2. Loyola Blakefield
Coach: Steve Truitt
2019-20 record: 19-4, No. 3
Outlook: This could be Loyola’s year to win the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference. These Dons are coach Steve Truitt’s best team and are loaded with top-level sophomores and several returning juniors and seniors. Judah Aybar (132), a five-time junior league state champion, is a top contender, while seniors Matty Walsh (152) and Jeremiah Aybar (182) are also primed for deep postseason runs after finishing as runners-up at 2020 MIAA tournament.
3. South Carroll
Coach: Matt Thomas
2019-20 record: 21-3, No. 7
Outlook: The Cavaliers, traditionally a better tournament team, might be the team to beat in Class 1A duals this season alongside Williamsport. They had the fortune of competing in a shortened 2020-21 season when they crowned seven county champions and went 7-0 in duals. Juniors Gage Owen (138), Michael Pizzuto (132) and AJ Rodrigues (160) each won state titles in 2020, while senior Ryan Athey (126) and junior Rylan Moose (182) placed at the 2A/1A tournament. A hole at 113 pounds could prove costly in dual meets, however.
Coach: Pete Welch
2019-20 record: 19-0, No. 1
Outlook: The Eagles were the state’s best team two years ago and while they have lost several key starters because of graduation and transfer, they still have several state championship contenders in senior Richard Fedalen (152), who has battled injures throughout his career, and Bullis transfer junior Enzo Bell (132/138). Junior Gerrard Johnson (195) and sophomore Billy Dekraker (126/132) are also wrestlers to keep an eye on.
5. Archbishop Spalding
Coach: Mike Laidley
2019-20 record: 12-4, No. 4
Outlook: The Cavaliers were young and lacked depth two years ago, and they might have solved one of those issues. Seniors Brady Pruett (126) and Joe Fisk (152) were state champions as sophomores, while senior Drew Baublitz (160) was fourth. Sophomore Vincent Paolucci (106) could also have a big year.
Coach: Matt Bichner
2019-20 record: 22-4, No. 5
Outlook: Is this finally Glenelg’s year to win a state title in Class 2A? The Gladiators have been to the state duals finals four consecutive seasons but haven’t been able to break through, often running into dominant teams from Damascus or Stephen Decatur, which is looking like the early favorite in 2A once again. Glenelg has another deep roster, headlined by juniors Ethan Sotka (152/160), Kyle Hansberger (126) and twins Jaegon (138) and Taegon Hibbitts (132), and the experience and coaching staff in place to win it all.
Coach: Bryn Holmes
2019-20 record: 14-4, not ranked
Outlook: Holmes, a former McDonogh star who went 162-19 with 114 falls and won National Preps titles in 2005 and 2006 during his high school career before playing lacrosse at Maryland, has a full lineup for the first time in his tenure and will be led by two-time private school state placer senior William Bressner (132). Sophomore Tyson Sherlock (126) and freshmen Emmitt Sherlock (120) and John Jurkovic (106) headline the Greyhounds’ youth movement, which has extremely high potential and makes them one of the best tournament teams around.
Coach: Doug McClain
2019-20 record: 21-5, No. 9
Outlook: The Poets have 14 wrestlers who have at least three years of experience in the sport, as well as several junior league state champions and placers. Seniors Joseph Gary (120/126) and Corey Anderson (132) are returning state qualifiers while accomplished sophomore Derek Grant (182), Chase Carpintieri (138/145), Cameron Griffith (106) and Clifton Butler (113) will make immediate impacts.
9. Sparrows Point
Coach: Mike Whisner
2019-20 record: 23-2, No. 8
Outlook: The Pointers have steadily turned into one of the area’s most consistent programs. Senior Wayne Brooks (138/145) and junior Dom Ambrosino (120/126) return after placing fifth at the 4A/3A state tournament two years ago, while three JV county champions will aid a lineup full of potential with a good mix of returners and newcomers.
Coach: Randy Curtin
2019-20 record: 28-5, No. 14
Outlook: The word around Anne Arundel County is that the Cougars might be the team to beat this season. Senior Victor Listorti (182) won 49 matches, won his second county title and placed fourth at the 4A/3A state tournament as a sophomore while his younger brother, Chase Listorti (145) won 44 bouts and a county title. Seniors Dylan Lewis (170) and Owen Schmidt (152), junior Dylan Ritter (120) and sophomore Collin Lewis (160) are others to watch.
11. South River
Coach: John Klessinger
2019-20 record: 30-2, No. 12
Outlook: The Seahawks are a threat to win Anne Arundel County every season, and this year is no different. Seniors Lonnell Owens-Pabon and Nolan Lunsford placed third and fifth at 170 and 113 pounds, respectively, at the 4A/3A state tournament as sophomores, and senior heavyweight Racheil Coney is next in line among South River heavyweights to be in the mix for a state title.
12. Manchester Valley
Coach: Dave Dodson
2019-20 record: 41-3, No. 6
Outlook: The Mavericks won more duals than any team in the state two years ago and will likely win a lot more this season with a huge roster and a solid lineup that features Travis Green, John Mueller, Lee Seipp and Jake Boog, each of whom were runners-up in the 2021 Carroll County tournament.
13. Old Mill
Coach: Jim Grim
2019-20 record: 23-6, not ranked
Outlook: While some programs are battling low participation, Grim had nearly 90 wrestlers at tryouts last month, which surely will be an advantage for one of the best coaches in the state. Senior Jackson Cohenour (170) is their lone returning state placer from two years ago but senior Elijah Mills won a match there. Fellow seniors Garrett Perrotta (182), Cameron Neal (160) and Matt Ellison (152) are others to watch.
14. Oakland Mills
Coach: Brad Howell
2019-20 record: 14-8, not ranked
Outlook: Few programs churn out unknown state championship contenders like Howell’s Scorpions. Senior Alex Tamai (120) placed fourth at the 2020 state tournament while Mason Cowell (126) and Peyton Howell (152/160) are among other key returners for Oakland Mills, which features a balanced lineup and always peaks at the end of the season.
Coach: Billy Yeo
2019-20 record: 22-9, not ranked
Outlook: A handful of Golden Bears wrestlers have had plenty of offseason training at nearby Headhunters Wrestling Club in Columbia. Senior Austin Stewart is an early favorite at heavyweight while juniors Joseph Munyaneza (138/145), Jonathan Neypes (160/170) and Jinan Khan (195/220) and sophomore Will Terry (120/126) will also contribute.
Other teams considered: C. Milton Wright, Harford Tech, Hereford, Marriotts Ridge, Mt. Hebron, Westminster, Winters Mill