Hammond's depth proves decisive

February 22, 1993|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,Staff Writer

In any wrestling tournament, most of the attention is focused on the championship round. That was the case Saturday night at Atholton High School, where the largest and loudest crowd of the two-day Howard County tournament gathered to watch the top two wrestlers in each weight class battle for county titles.

But teams win tournaments in the semifinals.

When a wrestler advances to the final, he guarantees his team a minimum of 12 points (second-place points) and can score 16 for first place. Third-, fourth-, fifth- and sixth-place finishers earn nine, seven, five and three points, respectively.

No team capitalized on this scoring system like Hammond, which took two individual titles, fewer than Oakland Mills (five) and Wilde Lake (three).

The Bears won their first county tournament with an outstanding display of depth and balance. They outlasted their only close competitor, Oakland Mills, 220-212 1/2 , by placing a tournament-high 11 wrestlers in the top three positions of their respective weight classes.

The Bears clinched the tournament in the finals, after second-seeded 152-pounder Josh Stokes scored an escape with 10 seconds left to upset top seed Geoff Henderson of Oakland Mills, 9-8.

Stokes' victory followed the night's most controversial match. With Oakland Mills' Roy Parker leading Hammond's Erin Woodward, 3-2, in the second period, referee Dan Rosenberg disqualified Woodward after penalizing him four times -- twice each for stalling and unsportsmanlike conduct. That allowed Oakland Mills, which trailed by 26 points heading into the finals, to get within striking distance of its fourth straight tournament victory.

"I figured we would win by a wider spread than this. I guess I was overconfident," said Stokes, who won the tournament's Outstanding Wrestler Award. "I knew if Geoff beat me, we would not have won this tournament."

But Hammond never would have been in a position to win had it not been for its clutch performance in the semifinals. The Bears, who sent eight wrestlers to the title round, can point to four pivotal semifinal matches.

In the 112-pound class, Mike Chang lost a 6-4 lead to Centennial's Jason Nagle, who forced overtime in the final three seconds with a reversal. Chang scored a takedown seven seconds into overtime for an 8-6 victory. Dan Proulx (119) followed Chang with a 4-2 overtime victory over Atholton's Jason Sturm.

Stokes then erased a 3-0, second-period deficit against Howard's John Wiland by storming back for a 12-7 victory. And heavyweight Jimmy Jackson, who trailed Wilde Lake's Carlo Gerstenfeld 3-1 after two periods, tied the match midway through the third period, then scored a takedown with 39 seconds left to edge Gerstenfeld, 5-4.

Of those four finalists, only Stokes won a title, but the other three put Hammond over the top by reaching the championship round.

"I'm so happy for Josh. He did such a super job for us. But every kid on our team had a little part in this," said Hammond coach Bill Smith. "We're a very close unit, and you can't be successful in this sport without being close. This is something we've worked very hard for and something we deserve."

While elated with Hammond's victory, Smith was upset about the way the Woodward-Parker match ended. His complaint concerned the presence of referee Jeff Rosenberg, a 1984 Oakland Mills graduate who won three county titles under coach Steve Carnahan. In Smith's opinion, Rosenberg's Oakland Mills connection should have disqualified him from officiating at the .. Howard County tournament.

"I think Danny is a great referee and I'm sure he did what he thought was right, but the people who put him in this position should have their heads examined," Smith said. "It's not Danny's fault that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was in a no-win situation."

"I didn't call it [the Woodward-Parker match] any differently than I would call any other match," Rosenberg said. "I've refereed all of these guys before. I've had Bill before. I knew what was right, I made sure of what I was going to call, and I called it. That's the way I feel. I'm not backing down.

"If you've got a problem with my officiating, you come to me. Don't bring up the Oakland Mills thing," he added. "I've been doing this for eight years. I can't control how a kid is going to wrestle. What he [Woodward] said to me was uncalled for. I'm not going to let any wrestler get away with that."

Old Mill's Adam Seidman's 11-0 victory over Wilde Lake's Tony Crawford at 140 pounds, which made Seidman the third wrestler in county history to win four county titles, looked like an easy victory on the surface. But Seidman came close to losing by defensive fall in the third period.

After scoring a reversal in the third period, Seidman's legs became entangled with Crawford's. As Seidman tried to roll through a defensive maneuver by Crawford, he nearly pinned himself.

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