Graduation losses threaten Anne Arundel's dominance It's a lean year for county at state wrestling tourney

March 01, 1996|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

When eight of Anne Arundel County's state-record nine individual champs graduated last year, it left Southern's Tyrone Neal (140) as the only returning titlist.

"When you have that kind of graduation rate, it's going to leave the county a little light," said Old Mill coach Mike Hampe, who sends region runners-up Chris Combs (103, 28-3, 16 pins), Gary Serago (130, 21-4) and two others to this weekend's state tournament at Western Maryland College.

The tournament culminates an uncharacteristically lean year for a county that has won eight of the last nine 3A-4A state titles and a record 10 state crowns overall.

Old Mill has won a state-record six crowns, including last year's, and an unprecedented five straight before being dethroned by Northern of Calvert in 1994.

Anne Arundel was the first county to hold both the 1A-2A and 3A-4A versions when Northeast and Old Mill won, respectively, in 1993, but the chances of bringing home a team crown this year appear distant.

Arundel of the 3A-4A won its first county and region tournament crowns since 1989 and also captured the regional dual-meet title. It sends seven wrestlers to the states, where Damascus (nine wrestlers) and Northern of Calvert County (eight) are favored. Northeast sends eight to the 1A-2As, where defending champ Owings Mills (12 wrestlers) and Lackey (11) are favored.

Of the county's 11 regional champions, only two-time 1A-2A champ Neal and Broadneck's Todd Betz (125, 28-3) of the 3A-4A are repeaters.

First-time champs are Northeast's Chris Morrow (135, 26-0), Broadneck's Lonnie Donner (130, 24-2) and Julian Tai (24-6), Chesapeake's Carl Cicchetti (145, 23-4) and Chad Duncan (27-2), Arundel's Isaac Haertel (152, 25-1), North County's Brian Balonis (160, 23-3), Meade's Willie Thomas (140, 26-6) and Annapolis' Rich Parshley (189, 25-4).

Six county wrestlers are ranked by the Maryland State Wrestling Association -- No. 1 Neal, No. 1 Donner, No. 2 Haertel, No. 6 Morrow, No. 6 Duncan and Northeast's No. 4 county and region runner-up Jay Queer (140, 25-3), whose only losses are to Neal.

"There aren't a lot of returning place-winners," said Broadneck coach John Mayberry. "It's a whole new ball game for most kids."

Neal, Donner, Haertel (15 pins) and Morrow -- the county's only unbeaten wrestler -- have the best shots.

"I'm more relaxed and I don't feel as much pressure as last year," said Neal, who could surpass the school record of two state crowns held by himself and his father, Tyrone Sr.

Haertel, a state runner-up last year, should reach the finals and face Damascus' co-No. 2-ranked Randy Pickett (26-1), a three-time Montgomery County champ. Each has lost to the same opponent, DeMatha's National Prep champ Robert Alexander. Pickett lost, 4-3, and Haertel, 6-3.

Morrow (12 pins, five technical falls) was a first-round loser last year. But this year he has wins over Donner, 5-4, a 43-second pin of Tai, and an overtime decision of two-time Howard County champ John Nguyen (Oakland Mills).

"I'm just trying to stay focused, and I've been doing a good job of that lately," said Morrow, who pinned his three regional opponents in 1:22, 0:43 and 0:41.

Should Donner reach the semifinals, he'll likely face Frederick Douglass' No. 2 Chaiyana Black (22-2), a defending state champ who lost one of two matches by pin against a wrestler Donner beat, 13-3.

Donner's teammates, Tai, and Betz, appear at their peaks.

"I knew I had the abilities to put a good tournament together, and I guess last week was my time to shine," said Tai, who beat three county champs, pinning two, to win the regions.

Betz, pinned in the first round of the states last year, said, "It's my last shot, so I can't afford a letdown. I have to focus like every match is the finals."

Balonis is North County's first wrestler to win county and region crowns in the same season. He can become the Knights' first state champ. Heavyweight Corey Fowler was North County's first county champ in 1993, its first region champ in '94, and was third at the states in '94.

Thomas could become Meade's second-ever state champ, joining last year's champ Adam Butts. A second-year wrestler, Thomas has wins over Donner and three-time Howard County champ Josh Zillmer (Hammond).

Parshley is Annapolis' first county and region winner since Chip Cochran in 1992, and could complete a trifecta with a state title. Duncan's 19 pins are three shy of the school's single-season record of 22, established by Brian Eveleth in '92.

Anne Arundel County's Top Seeds

Class 1A-2A

Name School Yr. Wt. Rcrd First-round opponent

Chris Morrow Northeast Sr. 135 26-0 Tim Green, Catonsville

Tyrone Neal Southern Sr. 140 32-1 Shane Fabbri, Beall

Class 3A-4A

Name School Yr. Wt. Rcrd First-round opponent

Todd Betz Broadneck Sr. 125 28-3 Chris Richards, Damascus

L. Donner Broadneck Sr. 130 24-2 Nick Hileman, Westlake

Julian Tai Broadneck Sr. 135 25-7 Mike Muller, South Carroll

Willie Thomas Meade Sr. 140 26-6 D. Harris, Springbrook

Carl Cicchetti Chesapeake Jr. 145 23-4 S. Berg-Cross, R.Mntgmry

Issac Haertel Arundel Jr. 152 23-1 R. Medina, Bladensburg

Brian Balonis No. County Sr. 160 23-3 H. Santana, Eastern Tech

Chad Duncan Chesapeake Jr. 171 27-2 Ben Bograd, Gaithersburg

Rich Parshley Annapolis Sr. 189 23-4 Kenny Neal, Howard

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