- 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.
In many ways, the weekend gathering proved to be a family reunion of sorts for the SMAC. Another state title was added to the Cannon, Leadbeter, Margolis and Lineberger 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.
No SMAC celebratory moment was treasured more than the one involving the Cannons, as their family name was returned to state championship status after a longer wait than expected.
In the seconds following his convincing 6-1 victory and subsequent hand-raising as the victor in the 145-pound state finals, Chopticon senior Larry Cannon emphatically stormed across the mat and took a flying leap into the arms of his oldest brother, Michael.
The eldest Cannon brother was a 2005 state champion and had the privilege of sitting on the mat in a coach’s chair for Cannon’s state final. Three other standout brothers between them were denied of their state-title quests.
“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.”
Admittedly weighed down by the burden of returning his proud family’s name back to state prominence, Cannon breezed through the state tournament as a wrestler on a mission to end the family frustration after three older brothers under Michael stockpiled SMAC and regional titles but were thwarted of Maryland glory.
“Mike’s been here; he’s been in every situation. He’s been in the finals; he walked the parade of champions, so I wanted him here [coaching me on the mat],” Cannon said of his older brother’s presence. “He knows how to say the perfect words to make me believe in myself. [Winning the state title] doesn’t even feel real. You dream of it.
“When I go to bed, I’ve had dreams [where] I wake up and I’m moving my arms [like] I’m in the state finals. When you’re in practice, it’s not about going to be a SMAC champion or regional champ. It’s [all about being a] state champ, everything you do.”
Nobody was prouder of Cannon than his oldest brother.
“It’s wonderful,” Michael said. “After so many defeats at the state tournament by my other brothers, it was nice to finally have one break through. It kind of started to have a stigma [for our family] of just not being able to break through the state tournament after me. Obviously, I wanted all my brothers to do well and I wanted them all to win state titles. It was tough to watch them all come up short of that goal.
“But on the same token, it was phenomenal to watch Larry break through that and get on top of that podium. It was just domination. He was just a man on a mission.”
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.
Leadbeter’s older brother, Collin, also won back-to-back state titles in 2006 and 2007. They became the SMAC’s first brother combo to each pull off their pair of state titles in consecutive years. Chopticon’s Eli and Lucas Black were the first SMAC brothers to each become two-time state champions.
It was also a groundbreaking state tournament for the family of La Plata sophomore Marty Margolis (120), who joined his dad as the first father-son state champions in SMAC history. Margolis’ dad, who shares the same first name, claimed state gold in 1991 with McDonough. Margolis’ uncle, Todd, was also a state champion for McDonough in 1994.
Northern star Eric Hoffman completed his high school career with a perfect season. He eked out a 1-0 win in the 160 state final over a SMAC opponent who is like a brother to him, La Plata junior Anthony Cable.
Northern, 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) in the 4A-3A tournament.
La Plata and Thomas Stone finished with identical fourth-place outputs of 54.5 points, right behind Northern.
Arnold also makes states noise
Chopticon was tied for 17th with 37 points. In addition to Cannon, Chopticon also featured another state-placer in junior Jarrett Arnold (106), who finished fifth in his bracket.
“Overall, I think it was a good experience for me. I had a lot of tough competition,” said Arnold, the SMAC and South Region champion, after his 5-2 win for fifth place. “I did what I wanted to do. I think it’s been a really good season compared to my last two. Next year, I’ve got to work on having even a better [season].”
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.
Leonardtown took four wrestlers to states, but none of them placed. The school finished tied for 46th with nine points on the 4A-3A side.
Great Mills had no wrestlers compete at states.