Coach of the Year
Buddy Hepfer, Arundel: When the county title race was being discussed during the preseason, few figured Arundel to be in the hunt. Five quality wrestlers did not come out for the team, and another expected starter transferred. But Hepfer (229-86-5 over 25 seasons), who recently was inducted into the Maryland Wrestling Hall of Fame, used a lineup that included four freshmen to dethrone perennial power Old Mill for the county and region tournament crowns, as well as to dethrone Broadneck for the Class 3A-4A East Regional Dual Meet title. Hepfer always has been known for getting much from little. This year, he coached the Wildcats (13-3) to a 43-13 rout of Old Mill.
Wrestler of the Year
Tyrone Neal, Southern, Sr., 140 (37-1): Few can equal Neal's excellence. He is 127-11 over four seasons, including 104-2 during the past three. Neal, ranked No. 1 in Maryland, won his third straight Class 1A-2A state crown after being second as a freshman. In his title bout this year, he pinned Northeast's Jay Queer, whom he had beaten three times previously but never by pin. Queer was a one-time county champion and twice a runner-up. Neal also won his third county and region crowns and topped the season by beating North Carroll's two-time state champ, Tommy Kiler, 5-0, to win the gold medal in the Senior All-Star Wrestling Classic. He ranks as Southern's most successful wrestler, ahead of his father, Tyrone Sr., a state champion in 1970 and '71.
The first team
Brian Balonis, North County, Sr., 160 (24-5): Balonis became his school's first wrestler to win county and region crowns in the same season. Balonis, third in the region a year earlier, avenged an earlier loss to Meade's Dennis Harris in the region semifinals before pinning Annapolis' Ben Jarashow for the crown.
Todd Betz, Broadneck, Sr., 125 (30-5): Betz, ranked No. 6 in Maryland, won the county, his second straight region crown, and was fourth in the Class 3A-4A state tournament's toughest weight class. Impressive wins came over Baltimore County runner-up Nick Sidiropoulos (Perry Hall), Frederick County champion Christian Davis (Frederick) and two-time Baltimore City champion Millard West (Mervo).
Chris Combs, Old Mill, Fr., 103 (27-4): Combs, a two-time junior league state champ entering his freshman year, pinned 16 of his opponents. He won the county title before finishing second in the region to eventual state champion John Waters (Queen Anne's), Maryland's No. 1-ranked 103-pounder.
Lonnie Donner, Broadneck, Sr., 130 (27-4): Donner was second in the county for the second straight year before winning the region crown to improve on his runner-up effort of a year earlier. In the regions, Donner pinned his first-round opponent in 26 seconds before scoring decisions of 13-3 and 14-2. He also bounced SMAC champion Adam Fitzpatrick (Thomas Stone) by 13-3 and pinned Old Mill's county champion, Rich Sampson.
Chad Duncan, Chesapeake, Jr., 171 (28-3): Duncan won the county and region crowns, pinning Baltimore City runner-up Rashaan Torian in 1: 45 to win the latter title. It was his 19th pin three shy of the school record for single-season falls. Duncan also won the Aberdeen Tournament and was a runner-up at Arundel's Invitational.
T. R. Fleming, Northeast, Sr., 145 (27-6): Fleming won the county crown and was a region runner-up before finishing fourth in the Class 1A-2A state tournament. Among his biggest victories were decisions over Baltimore County champion Pat Kopalchick (Dulaney) and a major decision over Prince George's County runner-up Dannon Jones.
Isaac Haertel, Arundel, Jr., 152 (26-2): Haertel, ranked No. 4 in the state, was a county and region champion before finishing second in the Class 3A-4A state tournament for the second straight season. Haertel, who beat two-time Baltimore City champion Bryan Cromwell in the regions, is the first Arundel wrestler to finish second at states twice, and could become his school's first three-time state place winner next season.
John Horrigan, St. Mary's, Sr., 130 (28-5): Horrigan pinned 16 opponents and had five technical falls, though weighing less than 125 most of the year. He won the MIAA Tournament and was third at National Preps. Horrigan's big wins include decisions of McDonogh's private school's state runner-up, Joe Smith, and Curley's private schools state champion, Mike Boettcher. He lost close bouts to state champions Kevin Jeffress (Liberty) and Wes Cummings (DeMatha), and to Class 3A-4A runner-up Chuck Jones (Kenwood). He also won the St. Mary's (( Ryken Tournament.
Scott Laumann, Northeast, Sr., Hwt. (27-5): Laumann (15 pins) ,, won the county crown and was third in the region this season, losing his final bout of the state tournament in overtime to Baltimore County and region champion Anthony Smith (Owings Mills). The 250-pounder also was runner-up in the Arundel and Meade tournaments.