Aberdeen sends coach Slutzky out a winner Kunkel upset helps Eagles to 13th straight title

February 23, 1997|By John W. Stewart | John W. Stewart,SUN STAFF

Second seed Matt Kunkel of Aberdeen stunned North Harford's unbeaten Jeremy Mason with a takedown and near-fall in the first 30 seconds of their 171-pound match, and went on to a 15-8 upset in the 28th annual Harford County wrestling championships at Joppatowne High School last night.

Kunkel and two-time county champion James Axel led Aberdeen to its 13th consecutive team title, 19th overall, and sent retiring coach Dick Slutzky out in style. In his 25-year career, there were state championships, the second-highest number of individual state champions, and the state's only four-time champion -- his son Matt.

Prior to the championship finals, Slutzky was honored with a plaque from his fellow county coaches, and with a standing ovation from the crowd.

Aberdeen finished with 177 points, easily out-distancing expected challenges from North Harford (142 1/2 ) and Fallston (135) in the nine-school program.

Joe Ercolano, a Fallston senior, and one of four returning champions who repeated, claimed the only pin of the 13 matches, putting down Paul Johnson of Havre de Grace in 1: 38. It was his third straight pin of the meet, and raised his record to 26-4.

The others to earn successive titles were Axel (27-1), Mike Reilly (26-2) of C. Milton Wright, and Tim Smallwood (25-3) of Bel Air.

Kunkel (24-4), who had pinned two earlier foes, never gave Mason (26-1) a chance. The No. 4-ranked state wrestler at 171, Mason, a senior, had won an earlier meeting, 14-3, getting most of his points in the third period when Kunkel tried to go up high on him.

This time, the Aberdeen sophomore countered an early takedown move with one of his own and quickly had Mason on his back. Kunkel maintained his advantage, leading 7-3 going to the final period, where each had a succession of take-downs and escapes, before the winner capped his effort with a near-fall.

The only overtime match in the championship round went to Fallston junior Mike Strobel, third last year, over Aberdeen freshman Randall Overstreet at 112. Tied at 3-3, Strobel won with a takedown and near-fall.

In an all-freshman pairing at 119, Ben Imhoff of Fallston got a reversal with 29 seconds left and hung on for a 4-3 victory over top seed Tom Gurrera of Aberdeen. Imhoff and Kunkel were the only ones to beat top seeds.

Another 4-3 decision was resolved by a takedown with 30 seconds to go, as Jeremiah Albright of Bel Air overtook defending champion Steve Voelker of Fallston in a heavyweight pairing.

The only other one-point victory was at 152, where Smallwood, up from 145 last year, got a third-period reversal to get past Aberdeen senior Jerod Gurrera.

One of two possible head-to-head meetings among 1996 titlists materialized when Axel (112) defeated Rick Desper (119) of North Harford, 15-1, at 125. While Reilly (125) won at 135, North Harford's Glen Folck (130) placed third.

Chris Schneck (21-4) of C. Milton Wright collected a county title in this his senior year, decisioning Shawn Loper of Bel Air, 9-3, at 145.

Pub Date: 2/23/97

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