Westminster pins down an elite spot


January 11, 1995|By BILL FREE

A major new player, the Westminster Owls, has arrived on the high school wrestling championship scene in Carroll County.

The Owls served notice last Saturday when they bolted to a 31-16 lead over 11th-ranked South Carroll in a dual match at Westminster.

The Cavaliers (7-0) came back with a major decision and two pins to win the match, 32-31. Dan McKennie's pin of Westminster's Jeff Woodring with 13 seconds left in their heavyweight bout provided the decisive points.

If Woodring had lost by a major decision (he was down, 9-1) instead of getting pinned, the Owls would have won the match, 31-30.

But Westminster had delivered a message.

The county's only 4A school is ready to have some say about who wins the county championship. The Owls have been pushed around a lot in the past several years by 2A North Carroll and 1A Francis Scott Key.

South Carroll began to be a factor last season and joined North Carroll and Key as one of the top three teams in the county.

The Cavaliers are certainly good enough to make it a three-team race this season, with 160-pound state champion Mike Chenoweth (31-1 last season) and almost everybody else back. They have a perfect blend of youth and experience.

On Monday, Westminster coach Henry Mohlhenrich still could not believe how his team let South Carroll off the hook.

"I said before the match we had our ultimate lineup ready for South Carroll," said Mohlhenrich. "All our top wrestlers had made their weights."

Mohlhenrich believes his athletes will receive a mental lift tomorrow night if South Carroll beats North Carroll "by about eight points" in a triangular meet at North Carroll. The Panthers wrestle Centennial first and then take on the Cavaliers.

"Our kids would feel a lot better about themselves after the tough one-point loss," he said. "They would obviously believe they have a good chance to beat North Carroll."

There has been talk in the Westminster camp that the Owls have an excellent opportunity to beat North Carroll in a dual match because they match up well with the Panthers.

But Mohlhenrich did not want to make any brash predictions.

South Carroll coach Pete Olson wasn't quite ready to jump on the Westminster bandwagon after the narrow escape.

"It shouldn't have been as close as it was," he said. "I'm sure Henry looks at it differently. They wrestled great and we had some things go wrong.

"We never expected Kevin Sakalas to lose by a major decision at 140, but his brother's wife had a baby Friday night before the match and he was up real late. Also, Dan McKinney was leading, 7-0, at 160 and he suddenly got caught and was pinned."

But Chenoweth, Steve Yokay and McKennie bailed out the Cavaliers by tearing through the Owls (4-3-2) for 16 points in the final three bouts.

Chenoweth, who has moved up to 171 pounds, scored a major decision (11-2) over Jason Hare, Yokay pinned Mike Swain in 55 seconds and McKennie came through with the winning pin.

"The crowd was going crazy in that last match," said Olson. "It was something else. With 20 seconds left in the third period, Dan [McKennie] got Woodring in a corkscrew and pinned him seven seconds later."

Francis Scott Key coach Bill Hyson, whose team (7-0) has risen to the No. 2 ranking from No. 5 in the metro area while North Carroll (5-1) has dropped to No. 5 from No. 4, said he wasn't shocked by Westminster showing against South Carroll.

"I thought going in that Westminster was much improved," he said. "I thought they had the potential to be a presence in the county. But it's hard to gauge just how much one dual match in the county means."

Hyson, whose squad has to be considered the favorite to win the county championship, believes the team that wins the county title Feb. 11 will be the one "that gets the most help from other teams."

However, it does not appear that Key will need as much help to win as the other three major contenders.

The Eagles have state champion Zac Yinger (152) and two-time state champion Randy Owings (145), along with Steve Lessard (135), Ryan Etzler (119), Jason Hooper (125), and Tony Cahoon (140).

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