Surrounded by his Bruins teammates, Charlie Bennett sat cross-legged on the Broadneck gymnasium floor. Through a pair of shiny, wire-rimmed eyeglasses, the wrestler watched a championship bout of the Bruins Holiday Wrestling Tournament.
Bennett is the smallest member of the Maryland State Wrestling Association's No. 9-ranked Broadneck team. A slender sophomore with rail-thin arms and legs, he looked harmless as he studied the wrestlers on the distant mat.
However, the 103-pounder had just stepped off of that same mat moments earlier after a 3-2 victory over North County's rugged Sam Paik. It was a nip-and-tuck battle that included a bloody nose: Paik's.
"I'm the first wrestler on the mat for our team and there's a lot of pressure," said Bennett, who has a 12-1 record and is the state's No.
6-ranked wrestler. "But after you step on that mat and into the circle, (the pressure) just goes away. You're ranked, and you don't want to lose to an unranked guy."
Bennett was one of 11 Broadneck wrestlers -- including five champions -- who qualified in the top four of their weight class as the Bruins swept the nine-team field for the title in their eighth annual tournament.
Broadneck (196.5 points) finished far ahead of second-place county rival Southern (117) and buried Carroll County's two-time tournament champion South Carroll (54.5 points, eighth place).
North County and St. Mary's finished tied for third with 102 points and Severna Park came in sixth place with 80 points.
Like Bennett, Broadneck coach John Mayberry said his Bruins may have been underestimated by area teams.
"We're a lot tougher than people think," said Mayberry, whose Bruins (3-0) hope to challenge Old Mill for the county title this year. "I always thought we were as tough as most of the other teams in the area."
The Bruins received solid efforts from wrestlers throughout the lineup.
Finishing in third place for Broadneck were Josh Marder (125), Dave Apple (140), Seth Lopatkiewicz (160), Dave MacCauley (171) and Cliff McClain (189). Heavyweight Alex Waddell was fourth.
Of Broadneck's champions, top-ranked 112-pound junior Shawn Miller (12-0) -- Bennett's workout partner -- was perhaps the most impressive.
Miller, a county champion who placed third in the state at 112 last season, pinned all three of his opponents in a combined 3:45. He now has 10 pins, including six in the first period.
Senior Roy Brazeau (119) improved to 13-2 with a pair of pins -- the second of which came in the second period of the championship bout with St.
Mary's Don Cipriani.
No. 3-ranked Duke Koblinsky (130) improved to 11-1 with his 4-2 victory over St. Mary's Phil MacWilliams. The bout was a rematch of Koblinsky's 3-0 victory for the title in the Annapolis tournament earlier this season.
Chris McTammany had only a 5-4 record coming into the tournament. But a technical fall victory in his first bout coupled with a pair of decisions was enough to win the 145-pound title.
"(Coach Mayberry) already knows what our lower weights can do," said Lopatkiewicz, who is 10-5 with nine pins. "Now he can depend on us (middleweights)."
Southern coach Tyrone Neal got a preview of what could happen when his Bulldogs play host to the Bruins in a 6 p.m. match Friday.
"Broadneck looks strong and we don't seem to match up too well against them," said Neal. "To come in second place to Broadneck here is very positive -- we were fourth last year."
Southern had a pair of champions and two runners-up.
Returning county champion and state runner-up Jason Braithwait (152) decked each of his first two opponents in the first period and won by a technical fall decision over Bowie's Warren Powell in the title bout.
Four bouts later, Southern heavyweight Rob Burley improved his record to 9-1 with his second pin of the tournament.
Although he is campaigning as a 152-pounder where he is the state's No.
2-ranked wrestler, Braithwait plans to drop into the 145-pound weight class "as soon as possible."
Southern wrestlers Keith Trader (125) and Chris Boston (160) finished as runners-up. The Bulldogs' David Ley (135) finished fourth after losing a 9-5 decision to Severna Park's Scott Woodland. Southern's Sherrard Neal (103) also was fourth.
North County's Ji Kim (189) took just 41 seconds to dispose of St.
Mary's Kevin Donnelly with a flashy move that had Donnelly airborne for a moment.
Donnelly was one of five St. Mary's wrestlers who wound up in second place. Cipriani (119), Dan White (112) and Phil (130) and Mac MacWilliams (135) were the others.
In a physical 189-pound bout that nearly came to blows, Severna Park's only champion, Aaron Cree, broke a 2-2 first-period tie to take a 7-2 lead over Richard Montgomery's David Berry before getting the pin with eight seconds left in the match.
At one point, the bout was stopped because Berry had twisted Cree's knee into a potentially dangerous angle.
Cree, who was bleeding from his nose and below his right ear afterward, said he thought Berry's actions were intentional.
"When the ref blew the whistle to stop the match, he started throwing my leg around," said Cree, a muscular junior who improved to 12-4. "When I stood up, I thought he looked like he was going to take a swing at me. That got me fired up and that's when I started winning."