- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
COLLEGE PARK — Nearly half of the state champions through the finals of the first 11 weight classes Saturday night belonged to the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference in the Class 4A-3A Maryland tournament.
The SMAC’s prolific showing resulted in one of the most memorable showings in league history at this weekend’s 44th annual state wrestling tournament, hosted for the 10th year by the University of Maryland’s Cole Field House.
With five state champions, all from the 4A-3A ranks, the SMAC matched its best output individually at states. The 2006 state tournament also saw a handful of SMAC talents stand atop the podium of their brackets.
Northern senior Brant Leadbeter (113 pounds) and Thomas Stone senior Garrett Lineberger (182) capped their careers in grandiose fashion by repeating as undefeated state champions. Lineberger completed his final season at 41-0, while Leadbeter was 39-0.
La Plata sophomore Marty Margolis (120) joined his father, who shares the same first name, as the first father-son state champions in SMAC history. The older Margolis claimed state gold in 1991 with McDonough. Margolis’ uncle, Todd, was also a state champion for McDonough in 1994.
Chopticon senior Larry Cannon (145) also returned his family name to state championship status.
After his state finals bout, Cannon took a flying leap into the arms of his oldest brother, Michael, sitting in a coach’s chair on the mat, who was a state champion from Chopticon in 2005.
The 160 state finals featured an all-SMAC clash of close friends, with favored Northern senior Eric Hoffman finally claiming an elusive Maryland crown, just holding off La Plata junior Anthony Cable in a 1-0 encounter. The two met in the SMAC tournament and 4A-3A South Region tournament finals where Hoffman won by 5-0 and 4-0 decisions, respectively.
“It’s finally great to get the state title; it’s indescribable right now,” Hoffman said after the putting the finishes touches on a 38-0 perfect campaign. “This is a relief and I’m celebrating. I’ve worked so hard for this, and I waited a whole year to get my redemption back.”
Hoffman’s Northern team, which qualified eight wrestlers for states and entered with hopes of winning its first Maryland title since 1994, only had its state-best two individual champions place on the podium.
Northern settled for third place with a SMAC-best 76 points behind champion Urbana of Frederick County (97.5) and River Hill of Howard County (89).
La Plata and Thomas Stone experienced solid performances, each registering a state champion, runner-up and sixth place to finish with identical fourth-place outputs of 54.5 points.
Lineberger, the reigning 170-pound state champion entering this year, was the essence of domination this postseason with none of his victories being closer than a technical fall, including a 16-0 manhandling in the state finals that was accomplished in just 1 minute 35 seconds.
“I wish I got a few more [state titles], but not many people even get a state championship. It feels awesome,” Lineberger said moments after embracing his mom with an emotional hug over the guardrail separating the fans from the floor. “This time, I had a lot of people to prove wrong. There were different doubters, haters, saying I’m not that good. I wanted to show them that I’m tech-[falling] everybody in this tournament or pinning them. I’m not coming here to play any games.”
Mission accomplished for Lineberger, as it was for Cannon in putting his family name back on top.
“There are so many one-time state champs from a family, but to win the second one [for our family] and be so far down the line [as the fifth-oldest brother], I feel like it gives our whole family the [statement], ‘We’re not done yet,’” Cannon said. “I had every family member here and all my friends made the drive down. I had aunts and uncles fly in from out of state. It just means so much to get out there and not just represent Chopticon, but represent my family ultimately.
“That’s what makes our family so strong, each other and God. If anything, I need to give the glory to God.”
The family theme permeating the majority of the SMAC title-winners also saw Leadbeter become a two-time Maryland champion like his older brother, Collin, who went back-to-back atop his brackets as well at states in 2006 and 2007.
Margolis captured Maryland glory after winning an epic 2-1 decision over fellow sophomore star Morgan Way of Urbana, both worthy of being state champions as they gave the animated, large crowd a third period for the ages.
Amazingly, no scoring took place in the third that saw Margolis lock in his patented spladle move, then almost have it backfire on him as he was momentarily turned over on his shoulders, before regaining enough control to keep his thinnest of leads intact.
“It feels amazing,” Margolis said after avenging a 3-2 loss in last year’s state consolation finals to Way. “My dad has always pushed me in every way with wrestling, and my goal is always to outdo him. He’s a two-time [state] finalist so I made the finals as a sophomore. I’m going to be a three-time [state] finalist and a three-time champ. That’s my goal.”
The 4A-3A side featured eight SMAC wrestlers advance to the state finals, matching what the league did in 2011. But that year only saw three of those SMAC wrestlers emerge with state titles.
Saturday, Stone senior Tanner Saluter made a dark-horse run to the 126 state finals before being dealt a 7-1 shortcoming to the same highly favored opponent, DuVal’s Thierno Diallo, he lost to in the regional final by an 8-1 tally.
At heavyweight, Huntingtown junior Dalonte Holland also completed an underdog route into the state finals before succumbing to dominating Perry Hall senior Matt Green via a second-period pin. Green finished the season an unbeaten 42-0.
Huntingtown was ninth on the 4A-3A side with 50 points, North Point 11th (43.5), Chopticon tied for 17th (37) and Leonardtown was knotted in 46th (9).
In the 2A-1A ranks, Patuxent was the SMAC’s top school with a 12th-place total of 39 points.
Of the four SMAC schools on the 2A-1A side, Patuxent was the only outfit to come away with any state-placers in senior Matt Gancayco (170), who finished third, and junior Connor Furst (138) in fifth.
Gancayco was the top-ranked 2A-1A wrestler at 170 entering states and pinned his way to the state semifinals where he absorbed a 4-2 loss to eventual champion Chase Cullison of Winters Mill.
Winters Mill, of Carroll County, was the 2A-1A team champion with 121 points.
Calvert’s six points placed it 42nd among the 2A-1A teams, while Lackey was tied for 47th with four points.
State tournament results
Team (Only SMAC listed after first place, 76 total teams)
1. Urbana 97.5 (state-placers: 2 seconds, 1 fourth, 2 fifths, 1 sixth)
3. Northern 76 (2 firsts)
T-4. La Plata 54.5 (1 first, 1 second, 1 sixth)
T-4. Thomas Stone 54.5 (1 first, 1 second, 1 sixth)
9. Huntingtown 50 (1 second, 1 third)
11. North Point 43.5 (1 third, 1 fourth, 1 fifth)
T-17. Chopticon 37 (1 first, 1 fifth)
T-46. Leonardtown 9 (none)
Team (Only SMAC listed after first place, 67 total teams)
1. Winters Mill 121 (3 firsts, 1 second, 1 fifth)
12. Patuxent 39 (1 third, 1 fifth)
42. Calvert 6 (none)
T-47. Lackey 4 (none)
T-61. McDonough 0 (none)