Can Eagles keep pressure on North Carroll?

December 10, 1993|By Bill Free | Bill Free,Staff Writer

A strong wrestling statement was made by Francis Scott Key last season.

The Eagles proved they belonged in the same class with perennial champion North Carroll.

They nearly upset the Panthers in a duel for supremacy in Carroll County before 1,300 fans at North Carroll, and then surprised the Panthers in the 1A-2A regionals at Boonsboro with a first-place finish.

But the big question now is whether Key can sustain that success a second straight season and finally overcome the Panthers.

The question weighs on coach Bill Hyson and the Eagles because they've lost the four top weight wrestlers in their lineup to graduation.

Gone from Key are wrestlers who combined for an 86-22 record, including Ed Null, who had a 33-2 mark at 160 pounds.

Also graduated are Dale Bloom (22-9 at 189), Mark Smith (24-8 at heavyweight) and Tony Bitzel (7-3 at 171).

Hyson admits it will be a major challenge to replace the four.

"It's too early to tell," he said.

Certainly, it's a challenge, but what would life be without a challenge. We're hoping to continue to close the gap on North Carroll."

The Panthers have won seven straight Carroll County tournaments and also have dominated the dual-meet competition between the two schools. North Carroll has been able to do this even in rebuilding seasons.

Hyson knows it's his turn to prove he can win despite several key losses.

He does have a lot of talent at the smaller weight classes, including defending state 130-pound champion Randy Owings.

Owings was the only Carroll County wrestler to win a state title last season and was selected as the Wrestler of the Year in the county. He was 31-2 as a sophomore.

"Randy's going to be in a situation where people are going to be getting psyched up to beat him this year," said Hyson. "But he has ice water in his blood and can handle it. He's even become more vocal this year and that will help the team."

The other outstanding Eagles back from last season are senior Chris Beale, who moves up to 140 from 135, where he was 23-6; junior Steve Lessard, who advances to 125 from 119, where he was 27-4; junior Zac Yinger, who will be at 145 from 140, where he was 27-4; and sophomore Jason Hooper, who advances to 119 from 103, where he recorded 13 pins and a 20-9 record.

Beale, Lessard and Yinger were all first-team All-County selections, and Hooper made honorable mention.

"I'm counting a lot on Jason," said Hyson. "He made a lot of progress in his first season and he's a heck of a competitor. It will be interesting to see what he does this year."

Beale, Lessard and Yinger are much more accomplished wrestlers and need to roll up some impressive stats this season to help overcome the lack of experience in the top weight classes.

The wrestlers who have to come through at the top are senior Josh Crone (160), senior Erin Brilhart (171), senior Mario Lagunas (189 or heavyweight), junior Adam Sullivan (189) and senior Brad Bockelman (heavyweight).

Newcomers who are expected to fill in some holes at the lower weights are sophomore Ryan Etzler (103), sophomore Brian Sanders (112), junior Larry Crowl (130) and senior Curtis Rhoten (152).

In all, it looks as if the Eagles are ready for the hunt.

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