1996 All-Howard County wrestling

March 13, 1996

Coach of the Year

Jeff Starnes, Hammond: In a season of firsts that included their first undefeated season (16-0) and first dual-meet Class 1A-2A state championship, the Bears under Starnes and assistant Bill Smith were a team of positive spirit and chemistry that rewrote the school's record book. Hammond won county, region and state dual-meet titles, as well as the county tournament title. It finished second in the region tournament. "I had no idea we'd win the state dual-meet title this season," Starnes said. "Our goal was to wrestle well on our feet, score a lot with takedowns, and be in better physical shape than anyone else." Starnes prepared the team well physically and emotionally, and did his homework in juggling lineups. Hammond's 670 team takedowns broke the school record of 530; the 166 teams pins broke the mark of 146; 340 winning bouts won broke the mark of 310. This was Starnes' ninth season as coach. Hammond's only other title beyond the county tiles of 1993 and 1994 was in 1990, when it won the region tournament. His nine-year coaching record is 89-31-2.

Wrestler of the Year

Jeremy Lignelli, Glenelg, Jr., 152 (33-0): Lignelli did what most wrestlers can merely dream about go undefeated and win a state title. He capped his dream season in the state tournament by recording two major decisions and a pin to reach the championship match, where he defeated Ryan Green (29-2) of Linganore, 3-0, for the Class 1A-2A 152-pound title. "He was pumped up for it a ball of energy," said Glenelg coach Ed Ashwell. "And he was extremely excited after winning." Lignelli, 33-2 and third in the state as a sophomore, had beaten Green earlier this season by default, after Green was ruled to have slammed Lignelli illegally on his head. "My goal this season was to go undefeated, and that's my goal for next season," Lignelli said. He won his third county title and second region title. Another highlight was his team's 34-33 upset of Oakland Mills, when he started a rally with a pin when Glenelg was trailing 27-6. His career record is 91-8. Lignelli, the team captain, is the first Glenelg wrestler to win a state title. "He makes a good captain because he's always trying to get better, and that kind of attitude rubs off on the rest of the team," Ashwell said. "He's quiet, but he leads by example. He helps other wrestlers with his knowledge, and because we are so young he is one of the main reasons we achieved our goal of finishing fourth in the county this season." In addition to his state title, one other match he remembers fondly was a 13-2 victory over then-third-ranked Primelle Pettway of Central in the finals of the Chopticon Tournament, which Lignelli has won three straight times.

The first team

Matt Augustin, Centennial, Sr., 145 (22-7): Augustin made up for his disappointing cross country season by winning the 145-pound county mat title over Hammond's Tony Dakis, 12-8. Augustin finished second in the region, losing a 6-4 overtime decision to Westminster's Charlie Minor.

Vaymond Dennis, Hammond, Fr., 103 (27-11): The 103-pound freshman sensation improved greatly as the season progressed, and won the county title by decisioning Glenelg's Jeremy Poe, 6-3. Poe had beaten Dennis earlier in the season. Dennis finished second in the region.

Jan Grothe, Hammond, Sr., 130 (24-14): He won the 130-pound county championship with a 7-0 decision over Mount Hebron's James Thomas, and finished fourth in the region. He was part of Hammond's senior leadership that was crucial to its success.

Alex Hernandez, Wilde Lake, Sr., 135 (28-6): Hernandez finished first in the county, third in the region and fourth in the state Class 1A-2A. His 135-pound county victory was at the expense of top-seeded John Nguyen of Oakland Mills, 9-2. Hernandez beat Hammond's Mike Loula, 7-0, to win the region consolation final.

Hansel Henry, Hammond, Sr., 171, (34-4): His team's inspirational leader, Henry won his second straight county title by taking a rugged 3-2 decision over Howard's 171-pound Frank Tortella, the second time he had beaten Tortella. Henry also won his second region title and finished third in the state. His forte was the takedown, and he established a school career record with 261. He had 135 takedowns this season.

Joon Kim, Centennial, Sr., 189 (25-3): The defending Class 3A-4A state champion, Kim came up a bit short this season, losing in the Class 3A-4A 189-pound state finals to Ryan Hoffman of Thomas Johnson by a fall. He won the county title by decisioning Hammond's Don Clark, 10-6. He won regions with a technical fall over Liberty's Scott Taylor.

Chris Naylor, Oakland Mills, Sr., 119 (23-12): The 119-pounder finished second in the county and region tournaments, and sixth in the state Class 1A-2A. He was pinned by Glenelg's Jimmy O'Connor in the county final after having pinned O'Connor earlier in the season. But he surpassed O'Connor's efforts in regions and states. He was especially tough on top.

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