The voice of Liberty wrestling coach Jeff Hash often faltered and was unusually soft.
"I was hurting [over the weekend]," said Hash. "I was hurting bad."
The death of Liberty wrestler Anthony Omelio in an early Saturday car crash caused the pain for Hash and much of the Liberty family. The 17-year-old had been class president for three years and was runner-up at 103 pounds in last winter's Carroll County wrestling tournament.
Omelio was buried yesterday, and a memorial fund is going to be set up at the school.
The Lions' 103-pounder quickly impressed first-year coach Hash during preseason practices. Hash asked him to be a team captain, but Omelio refused, saying he had yet to fully prove himself at the varsity level.
As the season wore on, a friendship developed between the two. Omelio became a bit of a surprise, going 19-6 and making it to the county final, where he lost a tough 2-0 match to Doug Dell of North Carroll. Hash walked around the Liberty gym that Saturday night wearing a huge smile, proud of his wrestler.
"The relationship Anthony and I had was a very close one," said Hash. "It was just the beginning of what was ahead for us."
Omelio also won the Francis Scott Key Christmas tournament -- despite starting as the eighth (and last) seed -- and took third at the Friends tournament. He was named co-most valuable wrestler at Liberty with Phil Youssi.
Liberty soccer coach Lee Kestler said Omelio was going to be one of 14 returnees this year. Kestler said he will talk to his seniors about Omelio when practice begins next week.
"This particular group of seniors have been playing together for [a long time]," said Kestler. "They're a very, very tight-knit group of individuals. I think we're going to have to work through it in the early weeks of the season."
It will be a long time until the memory of the 5-foot-4 Omelio fades.
"If he had the physical size to match his heart and work ethic, he'd probably have been 6-4," said Kestler. "He always stood tall."