- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
COLLEGE PARK — There were so many hugs and emotional embraces Saturday night involving Southern Maryland Athletic Conference wrestlers that the championship finals of the 44th annual state wrestling tournament seemed more like a family reunion at University of Maryland’s Cole Field House.
The weekend gathering proved to be a family reunion of sorts for the SMAC, as another state title was added to the Margolis, Lineberger, Cannon and Leadbeter families.
Meanwhile, the Hoffman family could finally exhale in relief while enjoying a first taste of state glory, thanks to outlasting a highly familiar opponent who seemed like one of their own.
It all added up to one of the most memorable showings for the SMAC at the state tournament, hosted for the 10th year inside 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 win state titles.
La Plata sophomore sensation Marty Margolis captured the 120-pound state title by prevailing in a thrilling 2-1 slight upset of Urbana sophomore standout Morgan Way, making for arguably the best Maryland finals of the tournament.
The third period was epic action though no scoring took place, as Margolis locked in his patented spladle move and almost had it backfire when he was momentarily turned over on his shoulders. He ultimately regained enough control to keep his thinnest of leads intact.
With the large La Plata fan section on its feet cheering him on in victory, Margolis joined his dad, who has the same first name, as the first father-son state champions in SMAC history. The older Margolis claimed state gold in 1991 with McDonough.
“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.”
Thomas Stone star Garrett Lineberger (182) capped his career in grandiose fashion by repeating as an undefeated state champion, having claimed the 170 Maryland crown last year.
Lineberger, whose junior and senior campaigns yielded an eye-popping 79-0 combined record, was the epitome of domination this postseason with none of his 10 victories at the SMAC, 4A-3A South Region and state tournaments being closer than technical fall, including a 16-0 manhandling in the Maryland finals accomplished in just 1 minute 35 seconds.
Six of his wins this postseason came via technical falls, yielding no points in the process, with the other four being pins.
“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 over the guardrail separating the fans from the floor of Cole Field House. That was after a leap for joy into the arms of his father, Joe, a Stone assistant. “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.”
Lineberger’s last loss came in the state finals as a sophomore.
Chopticon senior Larry Cannon (145) also enjoyed an emotional embrace with his oldest brother, Michael, after clinching his state title with a 6-1 decision. Northern senior Brand Leadbeter (113) also repeated in his weight class as a state champion, joining older brother Collin as the first siblings from the SMAC to win back-to-back state titles. The older Leadbeter accomplished the feat in 2006 and 2007.
Northern, which settled for a SMAC-best third place in the team race, featured two individual champions to lead the 4A-3A gathering.
Northern senior Eric Hoffman (160) finally claimed an elusive state title with a 1-0 tight decision over close friend and SMAC rival Anthony Cable.
The La Plata junior rising star hardly handed Hoffman the state title he was favored to win. After Hoffman tallied an escape to start the second period, he was on defense the rest of the way. Cable had momentum the final three minutes but was unable to score.
“I feel real good about the match, [but] it really sucks to lose that match,” Cable said. “It’s hard being that close and knowing that one time [late in the match], I could’ve spun around and almost got the two [points for a takedown]; that could’ve been it. He did an awesome job moving, kept his hips low and did everything he should’ve done.”
SMAC close to having even higher marks
Northern tallied 76 points behind champion Urbana of Frederick County (97.5) and River Hill of Howard County (89) in the 4A-3A tournament. La Plata and Thomas Stone finished with identical fourth-place outputs of 54.5.
Like La Plata, Stone also featured a state runner-up in Tanner Saluter (126), who made a dark-horse run to the finals — where he lost via decision to the same DuVal standout in favored Thierno Diallo that beat him in the regional final.
“The beginning of the season, I always felt like I was underrated from all four years of high school,” Saluter said. “Coming out here, I wanted to prove to everybody that I’m not just a good wrestler, I’m an elite athlete with everybody out there. I can stick with all those guys. I’m happy to say I competed in a tough weight class this year.”
La Plata senior John Papanicolas, who was a state champion two years ago, was a major state contender in the 126 bracket entering states, but he bowed out of the tournament after losing his first bout with an injured left shoulder, the same issue that sidelined him from states last year.
North Point, led by Tyler Morgan’s third place at 132, was ninth in the 4A-3A race with 50 points.
Morgan may have advanced to the state final if not for being disqualified from his first-round match Friday when he delivered what was ruled as an unsportsmanlike elbow to his opponent’s head while comfortably in front, 10-2. Morgan went on to win all five of his consolation bracket matches.
“I can’t believe this is happening, I can’t believe they did this to me,” Morgan said of his thoughts as he walked off the mat in disbelief after the illegal elbow erased what was shaping up as an obvious win. “My goal from the beginning of the season was to place in the top three [of states], so I wanted to at least complete that goal. I had a good shot [of making the championship finals had I not been disqualified].”
The SMAC advanced eight wrestlers to the finals on the 4A-3A side. The league was decorated with 18 state-placers out of the 48 that qualified for the 4A-3A and 2A-1A tournaments.
North Point’s Dominick Summers (113) and Malachi Edmond (126) finished fourth and fifth, respectively, while Stone’s Ryan Sharp (152) and La Plata’s Dakota Wilhelm (182) were each sixth-place finishers.
In the 2A-1A mix, Lackey and scoreless McDonough finished tied for 47th (4 points) and 61st, respectively. None of Lackey’s three state qualifiers or McDonough two state qualifiers placed. Westlake was not represented at the state tournament.
Winters Mill of Carroll County won the 2A-1A team state title with 121 points.