Aberdeen stays strong with mix of experience, youth

December 12, 1993|By John W. Stewart | John W. Stewart,Staff Writer

Aberdeen has won the past nine team championships in the Harford County wrestling tournament, and during that span, the school accounted for 15 of the 23 state titles won by county entries.

Last year, however, the Eagles went without a state champion for the first time since 1983 -- there were two losing finalists -- and there is no clear favorite to resume that streak.

Aberdeen, however, has four returning county champions, including three state qualifiers, who are expected to be among this year's best. They come off a team that defeated runner-up Bel Air by 75 points a year ago, but a combination of factors makes such a spread unlikely this season.

Dick Slutzky, starting his 22nd season as coach, will complement an experienced group of five seniors and a junior with the youngest group he has had in recent years. As many as four freshmen could be in the starting lineup.

The chief holdovers are county champions Frank Johnson at 135 pounds; Kit Doran (140); Chad Guerrera, up to 160 from 152; and Chris Allen (189), plus Giro Cristello (125) and Mike Grant (171). All are seniors but Doran. He's a junior, ranked No. 4 at 145 on the preseason list and recovering from mild mononucleosis.

Doran and Dave Schimmel of Edgewood, who shares the No. 3 ranking with McDonogh's Todd Margolis at 135, are the lone Harford County representatives.

The county's 10 wrestling schools had season-opening dual meets last week, and all but Harford Tech were in action yesterday.

Six were in the North East tournament -- C. Milton Wright, Edgewood, Fallston, Havre de Grace, Joppatowne and North Harford. Aberdeen was at home with Bel Air, Eastern Tech and Mount Hebron, and John Carroll was in the Pikesville tournament.

Aside from Aberdeen, there should be a tighter scramble in the chase for team honors in the county, and the individual quality should be improved. Many of the schools, in fact, have boosted their schedules with much stronger opposition. It may not help dual records, but the experience gained should be of greater benefit in regional and state competition.

Reclassification also will provide some interesting matchups, as Aberdeen drops from 3A to 2A, where it will be aligned with Edgewood, Fallston and North Harford. Thus, the regional 1A-2A event will put these four with Harford Tech, Havre de Grace and Joppatowne.

At Bel Air, new coach Craig Reddish has a solid lineup (especially from 130 up), one that is expected to make a serious challenge in the team race.

The seniors include Ken Stork (140), Dan Skurdal (145), Joe Strazzire (160), Jeramiah Bowling (189) and heavyweight Dick Barwick, back after a year's absence. Among the juniors are Matt Birth (130), a county runner-up at 125 last year; Brian Stewart (135), Jason Smith (152) and Steve Thomas (171).

There is a different philosophy at C. Milton Wright, where six-year assistant Ken Bryant is the new coach. The reviews are mixed, too, as the conditioning has improved, and the intensity level is up, but the number of candidates is fewer than last year.

Dave Schmidt, who dominated the county at 103 as a freshman, is up to 112 and may be asked to work at 119 or 125. Vince Tucciarella, a losing county finalist to his cousin, Brandon Moore from North Harford, the past two times (103 and 112), also is on the move. The team's most powerful entry is a possible starter at 119, 125, and 130. Junior Brian Walter is another solid returnee.

There is an experienced lineup at Edgewood that coach Mark Zvitkovitz believes might be as good or perhaps better than a year ago, despite the loss of two county champions. There are more candidates than in recent years, particularly freshmen, which should provide some depth.

The key veterans are senior twins John and James Fortier, plus Schimmel, a junior, with the three providing a solid front in the 130-135-140 range.

At Fallston, the top performers for coach Andy Amasia are expected to include seniors Chad Taylor (125-130) and heavyweight Russell Cook, a 275-pounder who was a losing finalist last year.

Todd Paradise, fourth at 160 as a freshman two years ago, missed last season with a back injury, but returns at 160-171. Patrick Elliott, another junior, is back at 125 pounds after a learning experience in what was a loaded weight class last year.

Among the newcomers on the squad of about 30 is freshman Matt Sutphin, back from a football injury, who is working at 152-160. The Cougars will be better off from the start, as compared to last year when they had to forfeit three weight classes each time out.

There are numbers at Harford Tech, too, where Gary Siler has a squad of 20 (he had 11 at the end of last season), including three holdovers who performed impressively in the team's opening tri-meet.

Although the Cobras lost to Sparrows Point and John Carroll, senior Billy Smith pinned his opponents at 140; senior Jeff Thomas won by forfeit at 125 and by a pin at 130; and junior heavyweight Aaron Keaton recorded two pins.

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