CO-COACHES OF THE YEAR
* Joe Thomas, Howard -- Thomas toughened the Lions' schedule, and he and assistant Dan Ricker toughened the wrestlers in practice. Though they went just 5-5-2 over the dual meet season, the Lions had two county champs and three runners-up en route to a third-place finish in the county tournament. The Lions then won their 3A-4A North Region, dethroning South Carroll, then ranked No. 11, and finishing ahead of No. 12 Dulaney to qualify six wrestlers for the states. Eric Paskin, a third-place finisher at states, is the only Howard wrestler who graduates from a team that ended with a No. 11 area ranking.
* Todd DeCrispino, Centennial -- First DeCrispino, who is in his sixth year, brought stability to a program that had seen a revolving door of coaches. And finally, this season, he and assistant Ed Rothstein brought noticeable success. The Eagles, fourth in the county tournament, had three county champs, a regional champ and a runner-up, and were the only county team to place wrestlers in the 3A-4A state tournament finals as Joon Kim (189) won a title, and Jason Nagle (125) was a runner-up. Centennial had a solid dual meet season as well, going 9-5 overall and 5-2 as county runner-up to Oakland Mills.
WRESTLER OF THE YEAR
* Joon Kim, Centennial, Jr., 189, 32-1 -- As a sophomore, Kim had a mediocre 19-11 record, was third in the county, second in the region, and was pinned in just 52 seconds of his preliminary bout of the state tournament. He ended this season as the state's top-ranked wrestler and the county's only state champ. However, the first time Kim was ranked this season -- No. 6 by the Maryland State Wrestling Association -- many thought him overrated. The criticism worsened, and his ranking evaporated after Hammond's Jimmy Weston moved up from 171 pounds and hammered Kim, 10-3, his first loss in 20 bouts. "He learned a lot from that," said Todd DeCrispino, Kim's coach. "That's just what he needed." Kim went 13-0 from there, including a 7-5 victory which dethroned Weston for the county crown. In addition, Kim (18 pins) decked all three opponents to win the regional crown. At the 3A-4A states, Kim won by default over Linganore's former No. 6 Mike Gialanella, scored six near-fall points in an 11-4 pounding of Churchill's fifth-ranked Montgomery County champ Dhani Jones, and won his title bout, 5-3, over Old Mill's No. 2-ranked Don Patterson, who was favored after having placed third the year before.
THE FIRST TEAM AT A GLANCE
* Mike Chang, Hammond, Sr., 112, 27-5 -- Chang won his second straight county crown and was second in the region after being third the year before. In winning the Lackey Tournament, Chang finished ahead of Quince Orchard's Rod Garcia, who was fTC third in 3A-4A states, Rising Sun's Seth Garvin (third 1A-2As) and Anne Arundel County champ Gene Reid (South River).
* Carlo Gerstenfeld, Wilde Lake, Sr., Hwt., 27-4 -- Gerstenfeld (235 pounds) lost 15 pounds from a year earlier and relied on his quickness and endurance to wear down opponents. He won the county crown, finished second in the regions and reached the state semifinals on a 2-0 decision of Stephen Decatur's previously unbeaten Quintin Dennis (275 pounds). A 1-0 loss to Hereford's Glen Warner (34-1) prevented Gerstenfeld from placing in the top four.
* Hansel Henry, Hammond, Jr., 160, 29-9 -- Henry, a county champ and regional runner-up, was not a pinner. But he possesses the ability to capitalize on perhaps the most critical weapon in wrestling: the takedown. Henry's 112 career takedowns demolished Hammond's previous all-time record (72). Henry dropped a 5-3 state semifinal decision to Aberdeen's 1A-2A state champ Kit Doran (33-0), an indication that he'll be among the state's best next season.
* Kevin Heywood, Centennial, Sr., 130, 20-11 -- In the county tournament finals, Heywood, who cut from 135, showed why half of his 12 pins had come via the split cradle (spladle) pinning maneuver, overcoming a 6-2 deficit in the closing seconds with the move to upset Oakland Mills' two-time county champ, Wade Mitchell, 7-6. Mitchell had entered the bout at 23-0.
* Jeremy Lignelli, Glenelg, Soph., 152, 33-2 -- This two-time county champ won the regionals and finished third in the 1A-2A states. Lignelli (five pins, seven technical falls), whose signature move is the fireman's carry, owned a pin over 3A-4A state champ Mike DiLeonardi (Old Mill), a decision over North Carroll's county champ Erik Hott and a major decision over Hansel Henry. The only losses for Lignelli were decisions to state champs Randy Owings and Zac Yinger (both of Francis Scott Key).