14 Baltimore-area wrestlers win titles at MPSSAA state championships

Fourteen Baltimore-area wrestlers left the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association championships at Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro on Saturday night with titles.

Owings Mills senior Phil Smith (152 pounds, Class 1A/2A), C. Milton Wright junior James Riveira (126, 3A/4A) won their third straight championships, while Glenelg senior Drew Sotka (182, 1A/2A) captured his second.


In the 3A/4A tournament, Severna Park junior Ty Broadway (220), Marriotts Ridge seniors Will Vaxmonsky (160) and Ethan Bohan (152), and C. Milton Wright junior Staki Gourgoulianis (120) won their first.

South Carroll’s freshmen trio of Michael Pizzuto (106), Gage Owen (120) and AJ Rodrigues (126), as well as Sparrows Point senior Lexx Carr (195), went home with gold in the 1A/2A tournament.


In the first girls state tournament, Dulaney sophomore Sarah Sunday (132), Randallstown junior Jaylen Hyman (164) and Western Tech freshman Mame Thiam (180) won individual crowns.

Owings Mills senior Phil Smith, right, battles with La Plata senior Owen Butler in the final of the 2A/1A 152 weight class during the state wrestling tournament at The Show Place Arena on Saturday, March 7.
Owings Mills senior Phil Smith, right, battles with La Plata senior Owen Butler in the final of the 2A/1A 152 weight class during the state wrestling tournament at The Show Place Arena on Saturday, March 7. (Brian Krista/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Smith (38-3) won his third consecutive state championship by defeating previously undefeated La Plata senior Owen Butler, 12-5. Smith turned it up a notch in the second period with two reversals and two near-fall points to build an 8-3 lead. Two more takedowns in the third sealed the victory in his last high school match.

Smith, who went undefeated the last two seasons, had to overcome seeing his 94-match winning streak end at the Mount Mat Madness tournament at Mount Saint Joseph in late December. Smith lost three matches there after losing once in his first three seasons combined.

“During Mount Mat Madness, I noticed I wasn’t really wrestling like me,” Smith said. “I was wrestling lazy and sloppy. Since then, I’ve been in the room putting in work, in the lab putting it all together, making sure everything is clean.”


Smith finishes his career with a record of 164-4.

Riveira (37-0) kept his hopes of becoming the ninth four-time state champion in Maryland history alive. He pinned his first three opponents in under a minute and then stuck previously undefeated Atholton senior David Panda (39-1) in 1 minute, 34 seconds in the final.

“It means I’m one step closer to completing my goal to win four. I want to be one of the few to win four state titles,” Riveira said. “… I out-muscled him, pretty much. I knew I was stronger than him, I knew he was quick and I didn’t want him to get on top; he’s lengthy. I used my strength, ran him over and put him on his back.”

Sotka (45-2) held off Liberty senior McClain Butler (43-4) in the 1A/2A 182-pound championship bout and won a 3-2 decision. Sotka, who won the 170-pound title last season and saw his older brother Max win one in 2018, said “it’s pretty damn cool” to become the fourth grappler in Glenelg history to win multiple state titles.

Owings Mills senior Alex DuFour, left, tries to escape control by Northern Garrett freshman Jacob Brenneman in the final of the 2A/1A 113 weight class during the state wrestling tournament at The Show Place Arena on Saturday, March 7.
Owings Mills senior Alex DuFour, left, tries to escape control by Northern Garrett freshman Jacob Brenneman in the final of the 2A/1A 113 weight class during the state wrestling tournament at The Show Place Arena on Saturday, March 7. (Brian Krista/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

“The coolest part is to get to see the name Sotka up there three times. That’s the most names on the board right there,” said Sotka, who scored all three points in the second period with an escape and a takedown. “My semifinals match, I just didn’t wrestle my match. This one I didn’t score that many points, but I was in complete control.”

Broadway (43-0), who started wrestling as a freshman, capped a perfect season by beating Man Valley junior Grant Warner (47-4) in the finals. Broadway, who beat Warner 19-7 in the East regional final last weekend, won the rematch, 13-6.

“It’s just love right now. My family came here; my coaches, they believed in me,” an emotional Broadway said. “I just feel love right now. It’s just a special moment right there. My coaches know I can push it harder with my conditioning and today I proved them that I worked the hardest right now in the 220-pound weight class.”

Broadway scored a first-period takedown and led 2-1 after one. He turned up the pressure from there and got two more takedowns and an escape to build a 7-2 advantage heading into the third. An empathic double-leg finish in the third essentially put the title in his back pocket.

Vaxmonsky (46-0) and Bohan (39-0) went back-to-back, as both completed undefeated seasons.

Vaxmonsky shut out Richard Montgomery junior Nicholas McCarthy, 1-0, scoring a second-period escape to win the title.

“McCarthy is a great wrestler; very defensive. I thought if I wasted too much energy trying to get my own stuff going when he was just waiting for me to attack and make a mistake,” Vaxmonsky said. “So I decided to play it passive. He wasn’t able to get into my legs at all effectively. ... All you got to do is win by a point, and I was able to execute today.”

Minutes later, a fired up Bohan beat Arundel senior Trevor Gagnon (39-4), 7-2, to win the championship and become the third state champion in school history, joining Chris Spano in 2016.

Bohan got a takedown in the first five seconds and rolled from there.

“I just put everything on the line. This is all I’ve ever wanted. I’ve been wrestling for seven or eight years and this is the only goal I’ve had. Last match of my life and I did it,” Bohan said. “He won and I knew I had to go out and do the same thing. I wasn’t going to be the one to lose. I needed that.”

Gourgoulianis (37-1) defeated Annapolis junior Frank Antonelli (19-4) in a meeting between two former private schoolers. Gourgoulianis was 2-0 in his previous meetings against the former Mount Saint Joseph grappler, and Saturday night was no different.

“WelI, I knew he was fast and shifty, if I got ahold of him and slowed him down, got what I wanted, he wasn’t gonna get anything,” Gourgoulianis said. “Me and James [Riveira] came here with one mission, the reason was to win states as a duo, best 1-2 punch in the state right now. We came here, we proved that.”

South Carroll’s freshmen went three-for-three in the finals of the 1A/2A tournament.

Pizzuto (50-0) capped his season by beating Mountain Ridge senior Jesse Fresh, 3-1, in overtime. Pizzuto downed Fresh 4-3 last weekend at the 1A/2A West region tournament and said he learned from the experience.

“It was a tight match, I just knew I had to wrestle my match,” the freshman said. “I knew I had a good chance of winning as long as I wrestled well. It was much easier to wrestle him this time. I just had to score my points, open up a little bit."

Owen (47-3) last faced his finals opponent Jagger Clapsadle, a former South Carroll wrestler before he moved to the Eastern Shore to wrestle for Stephen Decatur, at the Iron Horse Duals in early January at C. Milton Wright. Clapsadle, a returning state finalist, won that bout by technical fall, 17-2, early in the third period.

Owen had a different outcome in mind this time. Owen led 7-2 after locking up a cradle in the second period and held on to win 8-6.

“I just believed in myself, and that I can win,” he said. “I knew that I was a different wrestler now than I was before, and then to come back and just do what I needed to do.”


Rodrigues (50-2) went next and faced Williamsport sophomore Landen Harbaugh in his championship bout. Harbaugh won the 1A/2A West regional title last weekend and had one loss all year long — Rodrigues beat him 8-3 at the Damascus Holiday Tournament in late December.


Rodrigues allowed a late escape and won 4-3.

“You don’t want to be the one left out,” Rodrigues said.

South Carroll coach Matt Thomas said he could sense before the finals that

“It’s something that we said to each other this weekend, on the way here, that Pizzuto is going to be my first state champ and his teammates are going to follow right after it at 120 and 126.

When we went for the national anthem there at the end they looked at my when they all came out and [Pizzuto] said, ‘I got this. I’m going to be your first state champ and I’m going to go 50-0.' He looked at me and said, ‘You guys are next.’"

Carr (44-2) slowed the pace and defeated Stephen Decatur junior Johnny Hofman, 2-1, to join his brother as a state champion. After a scoreless first period, Carr earned a reversal in the second and then rode Hofman the remainder of the stanza. Hofman escaped in the third.

“It feels really amazing,” Carr said. “My whole life I’ve stuck to this sport. It sucked. I’ve got cousins that are state champs, my brother a state champ, and I had to fill the shoes. I’m finally filling the shoes.”

In the girls tournament, Sunday pinned both of her opponents, including Carver A&T senior Olivia Hutchinson in the championship match.

“I’m just shocked,” Sunday said. “It means so much. I’ve worked so hard this year and it’s been such an emotional rollercoaster. It’s just a perfect way to end the year.”

Hyman pinned C. Milton Wright junior Sawyer Graham in 5:54, and Thiam stuck McDonough freshman Jadyn Wilbert in 1:58.

Pat Stoetzer contributed to this story.