- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
When it comes to performing on the wrestling mat, the Damascus Swarmin’ Hornets of Montgomery County do not think about anything but earning bonus points.
On Saturday afternoon versus host and fourth-seeded North Point, top-seeded Damascus got the key points it needed in a 33-30 victory in the Class 4A-3A state dual semifinals.
It was the second straight year that the Eagles (29-4 overall) came up short of a state dual championship appearance, falling to last year’s state dual champion Urbana of Frederick County, 27-24.
Later in the day, Damascus capped off an 18-0 perfect season, clinching its first dual state title since 1999 and third-ever for the program, with a 37-28 victory over second-seeded Urbana.
Urbana defeated third-seeded South River of Anne Arundel County 35-28 in the other semifinal.
The Hornets dominated, exploding out to a 33-12 lead before forfeiting the final three bouts to keep their wrestlers fresh for the championship match.
”The bonus points were huge, and towards the end, we were able to rest our guys for the championship,” said Damascus head coach John Furgeson, whose team won a combined 15 bouts and eight pins in both duals matches. “The six points in key bouts is what separated the gap for us. We’ve been wrestling strong all year, and today we came up huge at the most opportune times.”
North Point head coach Rich Pauole knew that starting out at the middleweights was going to make things tough versus state power Damascus.
”I thought the draw was everything when we started out at 145,” said Pauole, whose team earned its second straight 4A-3A South Region duals title last Wednesday. “I knew that if we started there, we would be in trouble. We had to limit their opportunities, and we didn’t do that today. They got bonus points when they needed it.”
Damascus earned five pins in the match versus North Point, including three in a row that broke open an 18-point run, giving it a 27-6 lead at one point on pins from seniors Caleb Baisden (182), Michael Scafate (195) and George Vinson (220).
Baisden, who is ranked fifth overall in the state at 182 according to the Maryland State Wrestling Association, spoke highly of a tough Eagles team.
”We knew North Point was a very strong team, and they were probably the most physical team that we’ve seen all year,” said Baisden, who also earned a win by decision in the championship match. “This was real exciting for me because I grew up watching Damascus wrestling, so I thank the Lord that we were able to come out on top.”I
In the 285-pound clash, Eagles senior Travis Bonds earned a 5-4 win by decision over 13th-ranked Andrew Nickell to cut the lead to 27-9.
However, Damascus was deducted three team points after Nickell was whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct. Nickell thought he had earned a takedown before time expired, but the officials said he took down Bonds after the buzzer sounded.
Nickell was ejected from the tournament, which prevented him from appearing in the state championship match.
”I just wanted to keep a clear head; that match was very intense,” Bonds said. “We drew 145, and the match just didn’t go our way today. Damascus had some very good wrestlers.”
”That was the smartest that I’ve seen him wrestle,” Pauole said. “He took [Nickell] down twice and got a big win.
With the score now at 24-9, Damascus won two of the next three bouts, and sophomore Michael Wilkerson clinched the match with a 7-6 victory over North Point’s Kyle Gascon at 120.
”Michael Wilkerson has been doing it all year. We don’t give him a lot of credit in wrestling because his style is different than what we coach, but he has been doing that all year, coming up huge for us in big matches,” Furgeson said.
For North Point, junior Clayton Vermillion (145), senior Collin Schirf (170) and junior Dominick Summers (113) all earned wins by decision. Seniors Malachi Edmond (126) and Nick Cutter (132) and junior Tyler Morgan (138) all won by forfeit.
Johnny Fischer (152) picked up a win by a pinfall, Logan Brooks (160) added a win by decision and David Creegan collected a pin at 106 for Damascus.
The last time the SMAC won a state duals title was in 2011, when La Plata won gold.
North Point now heads to SMAC tournament, which it will host this weekend. The action kicks off at 5:30 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. Saturday.