At the beginning of the varsity wrestling season, Joppatowne head coach Larry Swift had reason for optimism -- but that was before a series of injuries decimated his squad.
One big reason for the early high hopes was junior Brian McCarthy, 16, a skilled wrestler who transferred to Joppatowne in September from Huntington, W.Va.
As a freshman, McCarthy was regional champ and state finalist. Last year as a sophomore, McCarthy was 26-0 but had to scratch two weeks before the West Virginia regionals due to injury.
This year, McCarthy, wrestling at 125 pounds, is back on track. His record is 15-2 overall, 7-2 in the county.
Swift's other wrestlers, too, were showing promise this season. But just when things were looking up (the team was 3-3 at one point and had beaten Aberdeen's "B" team), injuries and illnesses began to take their toll on the Mariners' roster.
This was the case last Wednesday night, when Joppatowne played host to a tri-meet against C. Milton Wright and Harford Vo Tech. The Mustangs swept the meet, beating Joppatowne, 63-8, and Harford Vo Tech, 44-23.
Joppatowne wrestlers Glenn Swiston (shoulder), Chris Winkler (hand) and Matt Winkler (shoulder) did not participate and are out forthe season.
Teammates Dan DeBoard (disciplinary action), Darren Swift (illness), Jason Wilson (shoulder) and Jason Britton (thumb) also missed Wednesday's meet and are questionable for Tuesday's meet against St. Mary's.
Six of those Mariners wrestlers have been missingfor previous matches dating back to the middle of December.
"WhenI think of my team and what has happened to it. My .500 dreams have gone down the tubes," said Swift.
Without a full squad, the Mariners have been forced to forfeit matches in the 103-, 112-, 140-and 145-pound weight classes. Swift already has "robbed" the junior varsity team of four wrestlers.
The Mariners (4-10) almost pulled off an upset over Harford Vo Tech, but eventually fell, 32-26.
Joppatowne's Zach Winstead won what was probably the evening's most interesting match-up against Harford Vo Tech's Troy DeBoard. Leading, 8-5, in thefinal period, Winstead avoided a pin for almost 30 seconds to take the win.
Dan Mick, wrestling in the unlimited class, pinned Tech's Kevin Wallace one minute into the first period.
Matt Miller ( 189)split his matches for the night, improving to 12-5.
McCarthy dominated C. Milton Wright's Aric Schwab, 23-7, and won by forfeit over Harford Tech's Albert Nichols.
"(McCarthy's) very critical about his performance but he listens very well," said assistant coach Dave Rose.
"He's really the essence of what a wrestler should be," said Swift, noting McCarthy's self-discipline, work ethic and determination.
During his match against Schwab, McCarthy seemed concerned abouttime on the clock. During intermission, he explained this was just part of his overall philosophy on winning.
"My style is, I like to know what's going and I like to wrestle smart and intelligent. Knowing the time and the score really helps," he said.
McCarthy's only losses are to Ty Long of Edgewood (ranked sixth at 125 pounds by the Maryland State Wrestling Association) and to Nichols.
His loss to Long was a 10-8 decision, but against Nichols, McCarthy was leading, 7-1, when he pulled a double-leg takedown on Nichols but hurt his own head. Nichols was awarded the win by default.
McCarthy had been scheduled for a rematch against Nichols. But McCarthy's chance never came because Harford Tech head coach Gary Seiler forfeited the match, sending Nichols out to wrestle at 130 pounds. That was not allowed, because Nichols did not provide a scratch weight before the meet.
"Iwanted revenge, but at least it worked out good for the team," said McCarthy.
Tuesday's match against St. Mary's will be the last for the Mariners. A meet against Milford Mill for Friday has been canceled. County championships begin Feb. 21.