- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
High drama unfolded in the championship finals Saturday night to cap the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference wrestling tournament at La Plata High School.
Despite 10 top-seeded wrestlers among 11 favorites coming away as winners of the 14 weight brackets within the tournament, half of the championship finals were decided by two-point decisions or less in making for a thrilling conclusion to the gathering, which got underway on Friday.
Headlining the championship finals was the scare that La Plata senior Anthony Cable overcame at 170 pounds to escape with a 5-4 win over good friend and rival Ryan Sharp, a Thomas Stone junior.
Cable, ranked No. 1 in the Class 4A-3A state ranks and the reigning state runner-up at 160, led the entire match but saw Sharp rally in the final 1 minute 19 seconds with a reversal to cut the margin to a point.
No more scoring took place, but the action was feverish between Cable and Sharp, ranked third in 4A-3A, until the final buzzer. Cable gritted out the win with Sharp draped around his back.
“It was a tough match, a really tough match,” Cable said, remaining perfect this season at 35-0. “[Sharp] never gives up. Even when I get tired in the match, he's still pushing. He makes it a close match and he's very strong, very strong.”
Sharp, who fell to Cable, 4-0, during the regular season, added, “Anytime you score points in a match like that, you get an adrenaline rush. Unfortunately, I couldn't capitalize on [my third-period reversal]. Anthony's a good wrestler, too.”
Huntingtown's Colt Constantino (152) also survived an upset bid from North Point's Clayton Vermillion in a 9-7 overtime win. Constantino, ranked No. 3 in 4A-3A, tallied the winning takedown with one second left in overtime. He was forced to tally an escape with 24 seconds left in the third period to force the additional one-minute period.
“With this week [to practice] before we have regionals, we're definitely going to get more focused and our coaches are definitely going to push us,” Constantino said. “We'll start peaking around regions and states.”
Constantino played a major role in the team race that garnered far more certainty as to the outcome than his finals match.
For the first time since 2001, a club other than La Plata or Northern emerged victorious with SMAC regular season champion Huntingtown continuing its season of breakthroughs with the program's first title in the tournament.
La Plata had claimed the tournament for 10 straight postseasons from 2003-12 with Northern bookending the dynamic run in 2002 and a year ago.
With 224 points and 12 place-finishers, including two champions and four runners-up, Huntingtown used a fast start to take control of the team race and never looked back.
Leonardtown (198.5), Lackey (176.5), North Point (171) and La Plata (168) rounded out the top five teams among the conference's 13 competing in the tournament.
“To me, this is real special because I'm a senior and this [type of] group of us doesn't come around much,” Huntingtown heavyweight Dalonte Holland said after he won his bracket with a 6-0 decision in the finals. “To get this [first SMAC title for myself], I showed the state where I'm ranked at is where I should be ranked.”
Like Holland, La Plata 126-pounder Marty Margolis is ranked No. 1 in 4A-3A. Margolis also prevailed with ease in the championship finals via a first-period pin. Next year, Margolis, the reigning 4A-3A state champion at 120, could join rare company as a four-time SMAC champion.
The same smooth sailing in the SMAC finals also occurred for North Point Tyler Morgan (138), ranked No. 3 in 4A-3A, Calvert Justin Couto (145), ranked No. 2 in 2A-1A, and Lackey Corrice Davis (182), ranked No. 6 in 4A-3A.
Each of the trio won handily in the championship finals, Morgan and Couto by major decisions of 8-0 and 12-1, respectively, and Davis by a pin in 2 minutes 40 seconds.
Morgan repeated as a SMAC champion, as did Chopticon's Jarrett Arnold (113) and Lackey's Mike Laury (195).
Arnold and Laury both had to sweat out their championship finals as the favorites. Arnold held off Huntingtown's Gino Sita, 4-2, while Laury eked out a 3-2 win over North Point's Kyrahn Perez.
At 106, Northern's Breandan Coughlin, ranked No. 1 in 4A-3A, edged out La Plata's Cameron Butler, 7-6, in a championship finals bout delivering a compelling finish.
Northern teammate Kyle Lamond (220) also had to stave off a late rally by Leonardtown underdog Brian Mays in a 3-1 outcome of the championship finals.
Leonardtown duo Hunter Shelton (120) and Kayleb Forsythe (132) were among the SMAC champions who were not favorites in their brackets.
Shelton ran away with his bracket finals in a 16-7 major decision over North Point's Dominick Summers, ranked No. 1 in 4A-3A. Shelton is ranked No. 5 in 4A-3A. Forsythe got the better of Huntingtown top-seed Ryan Lumsden, 7-3.
“The last time I faced him I wasn't hitting my moves, and then today I was finishing them all,” Shelton said, losing to Summers during the regular season. “I was surprised I was able to pull away like that. It's a huge confidence boost.”
The most improbable SMAC champion was La Plata's Eric Maule, whose 5-3 decision in the finals over Chopticon's Josh Rackey concluded a run to the top of the bracket as the No. 4 seed.
Winning the SMAC tournament just a few days after a 43-34 loss to North Hagerstown of Washington County in the 4A-3A state duals tournament semifinals was a good way to help Huntingtown cleanse itself of that bitter experience in the state duals.
“We wrestled OK this weekend and it's another accomplishment for these guys,” Huntingtown head coach Kevin Gilligan said. “We've got a lot of things that we need to work on. We didn't finish as strong as I thought we could. It's a tough tournament though. We placed 12 guys in the top five, so that's a big step for us.”
1. Huntingtown 224, 2. Leonardtown 198.5, 3. Lackey 176.5, 4. North Point 171, 5. La Plata 168, 6. Northern 141, 7. Patuxent 99, 8. Chopticon 98.5, 9. Calvert 89, 10. Thomas Stone 63, 11. Great Mills 47.5, 12. Westlake 16.5, 13. McDonough 15