- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
No Southern Maryland Athletic Conference wrestler carried more momentum into this season than Thomas Stone junior Wallace Smith.
The 113-pounder seemingly came out of nowhere at last year’s Class 4A-3A state tournament to claim runner-up honors, capping a Cinderella run all the way to the finals at 106.
It took the state’s second-ranked wrestler in Zeke Salvo of Perry Hall to knock Smith off via decision in that state final, but the Cougars hidden gem had been discovered as a legitimate contender to the Maryland throne this year.
But no sooner had this season unfolded than Smith suffered a shoulder injury in just Stone’s second dual match on Dec. 11.
He injured his left shoulder in what has been described as a non-contact sequence versus La Plata, forcing him to injury default out of a matchup he was favored to win most likely by pin and thus the bout’s outcome proved pivotal in Stone’s seven-point loss.
Smith was wrestling at less than full strength in the semifinals of last weekend’s Patriot Classic at Northern when he further injured the shoulder and is now lost for the season.
Stone head coach Michael Kositzke said his standout will most likely require surgery but he should make a full recovery and be ready for next year. Smith was ranked fifth in the state and was among the favorites to claim the Maryland crown that he just missed a year ago.
Tuesday, with Smith’s season-ending fate now a reality, the show still went on for Stone (12-3, 3-1 SMAC) as it cruised past the visiting Great Mills Hornets, 64-12, winning all but two of the 14 bouts.
“It kind of breaks my heart seeing a kid that works so hard, harder than anybody else in the room, and he has to be the one that has to sit out. It just sucks seeing Wallace [out for the year],” said Stone senior star Garrett Lineberger, ranked No. 1 in the state at 182 as the reigning Maryland champion at 170. He has not lost a high school bout since the 152 state final two years ago, finishing as a Maryland runner-up in his sophomore campaign just like Smith last postseason.
Lineberger added about Smith, “He’s always a good kid, never cocky. He just goes out and does his thing. To finish the season that close [last year to being a state champion], you’re not really disappointed if you get [state runner-up] as a sophomore. You’re like, ‘Geez, I just made it that far as a sophomore. I’ve got two more years to do this.’
“It was awesome seeing him last year make the state finals.”
Without Smith’s marquee skills in the lineup, Stone’s hopes of contending with the elite teams in the SMAC and beyond in the postseason have taken a major blow.
“Our chances [to contend] definitely went down and it kind of brought the whole team down, but we’re going to do what we can,” said Lineberger, who won by pin in 1 minute 3 seconds to improve to 24-0 this season.
Kositzke added, “We’ll find out [what we can do as a team without Smith]. I’d like to think that [we can compensate for his loss], but we’ll find out. Wallace is still around helping out. He’s basically becoming another coach in the room, helping out some of the young kids.
“Time will tell. There are a lot of tough teams out there [in the SMAC].”
Smith was on the Stone bench for Tuesday’s match but could not be reached for comment before he left afterward.
Stone’s Isaiah Williams (113), Tanner Saluter (132), Cody Jameson (138), Ryan Sharp (160), Sebastian Martinez (220) and Brad Revoir (285) also registered pins against Great Mills.
Sharp boasted the most dominant victory of the night, needing just 48 seconds to enact his decking.
“I’m looking beyond [just placing at states this year]. This year, I kind of have a target on back,” said Sharp, who won the SMAC title last year at 138 in just his freshman season. “I’m not under the radar anymore. But I know what to expect. I know what it’s like at the high school level now because it’s a big jump from junior league.”
He added about Smith being done for the year, “He worked hard, no matter what. I’ve seen him sick, I’ve seen him hurt and he pushes through it. It’s great to see him still around because that means a lot to the team. Him being hurt, he’s still at practice every day. He’s always helping some of the younger kids that are coming along. It’s definitely going to be hard to fill that hole, but we’ve just got to push through.”
A pair of pins from Joe Chavez (106) and Harry Carelson (195) comprised the output for Great Mills (7-9, 0-5) against Stone.
“There were some missed opportunities in a few weight classes,” said Great Mills head coach Ben Gill, who wrestled for the Hornets during his high school days before graduating in 2003. “Guys, who had to step up against [Stone’s] better guys, actually went out and wrestled. Nobody laid down. Everybody went the distance pretty much. It was a long night, but [our wrestlers] are tough, they stick it out.
“When you get big competition like that, it’s time to test yourself. We wrestled Urbana the other day and they were ranked fifth in the state. We don’t back down. We don’t give up.”
In addition to his two winners Tuesday, the Great Mills frontman was also pleased with Sean Van Brunt (132) against Saluter, ranked ninth in the state at 126, along with Hornets 182-pound sophomore Jovanni Romero, who had the arduous task of stepping on the mat against Lineberger.
“Jovanni would never back down to [Lineberger], he doesn’t have that in his character,” Gill said. “[Romero] fought off some pins and got some confidence. I’ve got a lot of young guys that did well.”
Great Mills’ Zack Teston (170) and Tyler Brinkley (220) also caught their coach’s eye against Stone.