Here’s what you need to know for the 2022-23 high school wrestling season in the Baltimore area:
Storylines to watch
New weight classes are here for private schools, and the MPSSAA is next.
The National Federation of High Schools gave states the option to adopt new weight classes starting this year — as well as the choice to cut from 14 to 12 or 13 weights — and Maryland is split on the matter, for this year at least. The state’s private schools will still have 14 weight classes, but they will be 106, 113, 120, 126, 132 138, 144, 150, 157, 165, 175, 190, 215 and 285 pounds. The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association will adopt the same weight classes starting next year, but this season they will remain what they had been since the 2012-13 season: 106, 113, 120, 126, 132, 138, 145, 152, 160, 170, 182, 195, 220 and 285 pounds. The split makes for some interesting lineup decisions when privates take on publics, as will be the case, for example, when South Carroll faces Gilman as part of a tri-meet on Jan. 17 and when privates compete in out-of-state tournaments.
The Virginia High School League adopted the same weight classes as the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association — which will also be the weights for National Preps — while the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association adopted the use of 13 weight classes, as the lower six weight classes added a pound. It makes for some challenging coaching decisions this season.
Will South Carroll do it again?
The Cavaliers were a force to be reckoned with during the 2021-22 season with three individual undefeated state champions and three additional placers after finishing their 25-0 dual-meet season with the Class 1A state championship. All three of those state champs — Michael Pizzuto (145 pounds), Gage Owen (138) and AJ Rodrigues (170) — are back for their senior seasons. Getting past a Northern Garrett team that returns even more depth after meeting in the state finals will be a tougher challenge come state duals, however, and they have a new coach in veteran Jay Braunstein, who once led Mount Saint Joseph and was an assistant to Mike Hampe at Old Mill, winning six state titles. South Carroll will have a more challenging schedule this season, including dual meets against Gilman on Jan. 17 and top-ranked Mount Saint Joseph on Feb. 2.
The girls are here to stay.
Girls wrestling is not new in Maryland, but the growth, now two years removed from the missed season because of the coronavirus pandemic, continues. In Carroll County, for example, teams can hire a full-time girls coach if the roster has six or more girls. At Winters Mill, former longtime varsity coach John Lowe has returned to be the girls coach.
The expansion has enticed one of the best in the country — Alex Szkotnicki, a Super 32 and Junior National Champion — to switch from homeschooling to attend South River for her senior season, where she’ll not only crack the varsity lineup at 113 or 120 pounds but will be a serious contender among the boys. She is the overall No. 17 pound-for-pound girls wrestler in the country, according to FloWrestling, and is committed to McKendree University, the three-time defending NCAA champions.
Can anybody challenge Mount Saint Joseph in the MIAA?
The top-ranked Gaels were challenged last year by Loyola Blakefield, which beat Mount Saint Joseph in a dual meet in an early season tournament but lost the MIAA dual meet and took second at the MIAA Tournament to the Gaels, who won their fifth straight league title. Coach Harry Barnabae brings back another strong group, headlined by junior Carter (120) and senior Coleman Nogle (126), brothers who are committed to Air Force and Harvard, respectively. They also return senior heavyweight Gavin Bage, junior Bryce Phillips (215) and junior Austin Lewis (175) to go with a talented freshman class and a deep lineup.
But the Dons aren’t going anywhere and have reloaded, while Spalding is young but talented. The team to keep an eye on is Gilman, which features a lineup without any holes and top-level wrestlers in brothers Tyson (132, junior) and Emmitt Sherlock (138, sophomore) and sophomore Zach Glory (120). Greyhounds coach Bryn Holmes said this is the most talented team he’s had in 13 years at the helm. Archbishop Spalding returns several MIAA champion-quality wrestlers and will make a formidable tournament team. Statewide, St. Mary’s Ryken in Southern Maryland might be better than all of them.
Which public schools will rise to the top?
Everyone expects South Carroll to be the area’s top public school once again, but behind them, there is no clear favorite. Glenelg has consistently been in the mix, having finished as state dual-meet runners-up from 2017 to 2020, while South River, the defending Class 4A state champions, Sparrows Point, state dual meet semifinalists five seasons running, and Manchester Valley are expected to be strong again. Could a team like Hammond break through, get past Oakland Mills and knock off the Gladiators, who have won five of the last six Howard Counaty tournament titles? Could Reservoir, a 3A state duals semifinalist last year, be that team? Could Hereford under NCAA All-American and four-time Maryland state champion Josh Asper push the Pointers in Baltimore County?
Parity headlines Anne Arundel County, with Broadneck boasting its best roster in years, Chesapeake, last year’s 3A state champions, returning plenty of talent, Old Mill being Old Mill and Crofton on the rise with its first senior class. Will Harford Tech, which had nine state qualifiers in 2022, reached the 1A state duals and won the Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference tournament, knock off Bel Air or C. Milton Wright again? Time will tell.
Wrestlers to watch
Judah Aybar, Loyola Blakefield, junior, 144 lbs.
An experienced wrestler who trained in Pennsylvania in the offseason, Aybar returns a year after being named first-team All-Metro and winning the MIAA Tournament, where he earned the Russell Cup for most team points in the event. He took seventh at National Preps and went 33-5.
Gavin Bage, Mount Saint Joseph, senior, 285 lbs.
One of the Gaels’ few seniors and a returning first-team All-Metro pick, Bage returns after going 20-7 last season with 16 falls, improving his career record to 39-18 with 32 pins. He won the MIAA Tournament title and took second at the War on the Shore, third at the MIS Tournament and sixth at National Preps.
Sean Garretson, Archbishop Spalding, sophomore, 113 lbs.
Garretson had a strong freshman campaign, going 32-5 on his way to winning titles at the MIAA and MIS tournaments before taking fourth at National Preps. The first-team All-Metro returner is the clear favorite in the MIAA at his weight class and should lead a young but talented Cavaliers team in a grueling league.
Calvin Kraisser, Centennial, sophomore, 152 lbs.
Kraisser is fresh off a 27-0 freshman season in which he swept the postseason titles to become the fifth wrestler in the family to win a state championship. All eyes will be on the youngest brother of Nathan, Austin and Jason and son of coach Cliff to see if he can become the third Kraisser to win four state crowns.
Carter Nogle, Mount Saint Joseph, junior, 120 lbs.
Nogle returns a year after going 45-4 with 34 pins and winning titles at the War on the Shore, MIAA and MIS tournaments while also placing fifth at the Beast of the East and National Preps to be named first-team All-Metro. After his offseason success, becoming a double All-American by placing in both Freestyle and Greco-Roman at the national championships, he committed to Air Force and is ranked No. 16 in the country by FloWrestling.
Coleman Nogle, Mount Saint Joseph, senior, 126 lbs.
A Harvard commit who pinned his way to MIAA and MIS tournament titles as a freshman before taking second at both a year ago, Nogle is an experienced wrestler who rarely takes time away from the mat. He was an All-American at the national championships this summer and is ranked No. 18 in the country by FloWrestling.
Noah Onkst, McDonogh, junior, 190 lbs.
Onkst returns after winning the MIS Tournament and taking second at the MIAA Tournament as a sophomore. A first-team All-Metro pick, he went 25-10 a year ago in his first full varsity season while wrestling at 170 pounds.
Gage Owen, South Carroll, senior, 138 lbs.
An American University commit, Owen hasn’t lost since his freshman season and holds a 94-3 career record after going 38-0 while winning his second Carroll County, 1A West Region and 2A/1A state tournament titles last year. The returning first-team All-Metro pick also helped the Cavaliers win their first Class 1A state dual meet title.
Bryce Phillips, Mount Saint Joseph, junior, 215 lbs.
Phillips, who went 45-5 with 27 pins to be named first-team All-Metro last year, is one of the state’s most elite upperweights. He cruised to titles at the MIAA and MIS tournaments while also placing fifth at Beast of the East and sixth at National Preps as a 182-pound sophomore.
Michael Pizzuto, South Carroll, senior, 145 lbs.
A two-time undefeated state champion who owns a 99-0 record, Pizzuto will garner plenty of attention to see if he can cap his career with an undefeated mark before he heads to Maryland. He went 40-0 as a junior and led the Cavaliers to the state dual meet championship to be named first-team All-Metro.
AJ Rodrigues, South Carroll, senior, 170 lbs.
One of three returning undefeated state champions for the Cavaliers, Rodrigues is coming off a strong football season and now turns his attention to adding to his 100-2 career record. Like Pizzuto and Owen, he’s a two-time state champion who went undefeated as junior, going 40-0 in South Carroll’s state championship season on his way to first-team All-Metro honors.
Preseason Top 15 teams
1. Mount Saint Joseph
Coach: Harry Barnabae
Last season: 15-1, No. 1
Postseason: MIAA and MIS tournament champion, ninth at National Preps
Outlook: The Gaels have reloaded and are the clear favorite in the MIAA this season. Brothers Carter (120, junior) and Coleman Nogle (126, senior) are among the country’s best and are committed to Air Force and Harvard, respectively, while junior Bryce Phillips (215) and senior Gavin Bage (285) are considered the best in their weight classes. Sophomores Nicholas Barnabae (165), Ben Smith (157), Cameron Cannaday (144) and William Hudson (150) and junior Austin Lewis (175) will also be in the mix for postseason titles. Finding a weakness in their lineup will be a tall task.
2. Loyola Blakefield
Coach: Steve Truitt
Last season: 17-2, No. 2
Postseason: Second at MIAA Tournament, fourth at MIS Tournament, 13th at National Preps
Outlook: Injuries toward the end of last season hurt the Dons, and despite graduating six senior starters and losing two others, they return six starters and added several talented freshmen. Junior Judah Aybar (144) will be hard to beat, as will returning starters in seniors Logan Kisner (132) and Chance Miller (215) and sophomore Luke Randazzo (285). Lightweights such as junior Brandyn Fish (120), sophomore Cayden Farver (113) and freshman Jayden Jackson (106) round out one of the state’s best lineups.
3. South Carroll
Coach: Jay Braunstein
Last season: 25-0, No. 3
Postseason: Class 1A state dual-meet champion, Carroll County Tournament champion
Outlook: The Cavaliers dominated a year ago, cruising to the Class 1A state dual-meet title behind three undefeated junior state champs. All three — Gage Owen (138), Michael Pizzuto (145) and AJ Rodrigues (170) — are back to aim for their third state title in as many chances. (There was no postseason in 2020-21.) But their lineup is even deeper than just those three, as sophomore Evan Owen (113) and senior Rylan Moose (182) are back after placing fourth and second, respectively, at the state tournament a year ago.
Coach: Bryn Holmes
Last season: 8-3, No. 6
Postseason: Fourth at MIAA Tournament, seventh at MIS Tournament, 20th at National Preps
Outlook: Holmes said this is the best team he’s had in 13 years coaching the Greyhounds, and they’re still probably a year away from being considered a legitimate threat to win the MIAA. Brothers Tyson (132, junior) and Emmitt Sherlock (138, sophomore) and sophomore Zach Glory (120) will lead a deep lineup that lost some seniors from a year ago but is healthier and more experienced. Sophomores John Jurkovic (126) and Gabriel Smith (165), as well as senior Carson Mingo (190), are also back in a lineup that doesn’t have any glaring holes.
5. Archbishop Spalding
Coach: Mike Laidley
Last season: 13-2, No. 5
Postseason: Third at MIAA and MIS tournaments, 12th at National Preps
Outlook: The Cavaliers are always in the mix in the MIAA and are loaded with underclassmen ready to take the next step. Sophomore Sean Garretson (113) headlines the group as a defending MIAA and MIS tournament champion, while junior VIncent Paolucci (126) will be a tough out in any event. Sophomore Dylan Briles (120) and junior Charlie Gessford (150) both placed in the top five at the MIAA Tournament a year ago.
6. Sparrows Point
Coach: Michael Whisner
Last season: 11-2, No. 4
Postseason: Class 2A state dual-meet semifinalists, Baltimore County Tournament champion
Outlook: The Pointers have consistently been one of the top public school teams in the state for the last half-decade, and for the first time under Whisner’s leadership they return an individual state champion in senior Dom Ambrosino (132). He will pair with Loyola Blakefield transfer and senior Damon Nelson (182) as preseason favorites to win state titles. Senior Hunter Petrovia (285) and sophomore Christian Manley (120) will be others to watch as the Pointers make another push for an elusive state dual-meet title.
Coach: Pete Welch
Last season: 1-7, No. 7
Postseason: Fifth at MIAA and MIS tournaments, 11th at National Preps
Outlook: The Eagles had one of their worst dual meet seasons last year but were still one of the top teams in the state. Expect much of the same this winter. Coach Pete Welch said he has one of the youngest teams during his extended tenure, but seniors Enzo Bell (132) and Connor Bollinger (138) and junior Noah Onkst (190) will be in the mix for MIAA and MIS titles, making McDonogh a team to watch in tournaments.
8. Manchester Valley
Coach: Dave Dodson
Last season: 31-9, No. 14
Postseason: Class 2A West Region dual-meet quarterfinalists, second at Carroll County Tournament
Outlook: The Mavericks will be the top challenger to South Carroll in Carroll County this season after finishing second in the county duals and tournament, and they have the top-level talent to give the Cavaliers a run for their money. Senior Jake Boog (170), who went 43-3 with 31 pins a year ago, is a returning state champion while senior and county and regional champion Travis Green (160) returns a year after going 48-4 and finishing third at the state tournament. Sophomore Cru Boog (220) is also a returning county champion, and senior Lee Seipp (126) is back after winning 38 matches in 2021-22.
9. South River
Coach: John Klessinger
Last season: 29-4, No. 10
Postseason: Class 4A state dual-meet champion, second at Anne Arundel County Tournament
Outlook: The Seahawks broke through and won their first state dual-meet championship last winter under veteran coach John Klessinger, and while they don’t have quite the same top-level talent this winter, they will still be formidable in Class 4A and in a deep Anne Arundel County. The addition of Alex Szkotnicki (113), one of the country’s best girls wrestlers, will help, while returning state finalist Sam Ditmars (152) is contender to win it this season.
Coach: Randy Curtin
Last season: 36-5, No. 9
Postseason: Class 3A state dual-meet and Anne Arundel County Tournament champion
Outlook: Gone are the Listorti brothers, Chase and Victor, who both won individual state titles to help the Cougars claim their first state dual-meet championship in commanding fashion a year ago. But Chesapeake brings back enough talent to make another postseason run in both duals and tournaments, including sophomores Braydon Ambrose (106) and Delmar White (285), senior Dylan Ritter (126 and junior Colin Lewis (182).
Coach: Reid Bloomfield
Last season: 22-11, not ranked
Postseason: Class 4A East Region dual-meet semifinalists, fourth at Anne Arundel County Tournament
Outlook: In what should be an exciting season in Anne Arundel County, several county coaches picked the Bruins to make the biggest leap and challenge for a league title — and make a potential postseason run. They battled South River closer than most in the Class 4A East Region dual-meet semifinals a year ago and bring back the vast majority of their lineup, including state placers in sophomores Cam Williams (113) and Brandon Whyte-Taylor (120) and senior Liam DeBaugh (170/160), who lost a two-point match in last year’s 126-pound state final. Several other sophomores and talented lightweights make Broadneck a formidable team.
Coach: Matt Bichner
Last season: 10-3, No. 8
Postseason: Class 2A West Region dual-meet semifinalists, Howard County Tournament champion
Outlook: The Gladiators were in the state dual-meet championship match four straight years from 2017 to 2020 for a reason. Coach Matt Bichner has built a program based around consistency, and they proved that again last season by winning their fifth Howard County Tournament title in six seasons. They might be down slightly but still have seniors Ethan Sotka (170/160), a returning state finalist, and Leo Conti (182/170) to go with a core of competitive lightweights.
13. Bel Air
Coach: Craig Reddish
Last season: 19-3, No. 15
Postseason: Class 4A state dual-meet semifinalists, second at UCBAC Tournament
Outlook: The Bobcats were loaded with underclassmen a year ago and now boast a senior-laden group that should be hungry after falling just short at the UCBAC Tournament with one champion among nine finalists. They have a steady lineup with several key returnees, including seniors Manny Lucas (132), Gavin McDowell (138) and Cade Zengel and juniors Chris Nice (152) and Ian Nitz (220).
14. Calvert Hall
Coach: Karl Green
Last season: 12-4, No. 11
Postseason: Sixth at MIAA Tournament, ninth at MIS Tournament
Outlook: The Cardinals were a step below the MIAA elites a year ago but should be in the mix with a roster full of talented underclassmen. Sophomore Griffin Stewart (120), who won more than 30 matches as a freshman and placed third at the MIAA Tournament and fifth at the MIS Tournament, headlines a lineup that also features senior Duncan Kammar (190), who placed in both the MIAA and MIS tournaments.
15. Harford Tech
Coach: Ja’Juan Burrell
Last season: 18-5, not ranked
Postseason: Class 1A state dual-meet semifinalists, UCBAC Tournament champion
Outlook: The Cobras perhaps surprised many in Harford County by beating Bel Air and C. Milton Wright, the perennial contenders, to win the UCBAC Tournament a year ago, but coach Ja’Juan Burrell saw it coming. They placed 13 at their league tournament and qualified nine for the state tournament, and although they lost their two state placers, brothers Kevin and Kelvin Mendez, to graduation, they have plenty of depth to make another run to the state duals. Senior Logan Barkey (126) leads the pack.
Others considered: Boys’ Latin, Crofton, Hammond, Hereford, Marriotts Ridge, Oakland Mills, Old Mill, Reservoir