1996-97 All-Anne Arundel wrestling teams

March 11, 1997|By Lem Satterfield

Wrestler of the Year

Josh White, St. Mary's, Sr., 171 (30-3): White, ranked No. 1 in the state, pinned 22 opponents and won the Maryland privates schools state and MIAA tournament titles after being runner-up in the latter the previous season. Each of White's crowns came over Gilman's No. 3 Damian Davis. White, who pinned his first 12 opponents of the season, ends his high school career with a 121-20 record. His three losses this year came against two wrestlers from Pennsylvania and one from New Jersey, two by two-point decisions. White was fourth at the National Preps Tournament, losing in the semifinals to eventual champ Conan Leary of Tabor Academy in Pennsylvania. He thoroughly dominated even the most quality opposition, including a technical fall over region champ Jimmy Stone (Northern), and a pin of City's James Thaxton.

Coaches of the Year

Buddy Hepfer, Arundel: Hepfer had just four seniors and returned only four state qualifiers, yet coached his team through a dominant season. The Wildcats (18-0), ranked No. 2 by The Sun, completed the season with a school-record 18-0 mark and the county's first 3A-4A dual-meet state title. They also were ranked as high as No. 4 in the state, and scored a record 241 points at the county meet -- 68 more than runner-up Old Mill. Hepfer's Wildcats also won their second straight regional tournament crown -- the ninth in his 29 seasons -- and qualified 12 wrestlers for the state tournament, tying the record set by Old Mill. Rob Connolly (160, third) and Brian Schroeder (125, fourth) placed at the states. "We don't have many studs on this team, but it's a real team of kids that rely on each other and pick each other up, emotionally," said Hepfer, 52, who will return eight state qualifiers to next year's veteran team.

Frank Buckland, Spalding: Buckland, a former coach with the Arden Attackers junior-league program, and his coaching staff, which included Roger Taylor, took the Cavaliers to new heights this season. In addition to winning the private schools state title in the B Division, Spalding won tournaments at St. Michael's and Sidwell Friends, and finished second at St. Mary's Ryken and Boys' Latin. It was the first season in which the Cavaliers won a tournament. Zane Marfani (189, 30-4, 21 pins) finished second at the states, Jimmy Foster (130, 31-8) was third, John Seitz (135, 28-11) fourth, and Tom Hartka (112, 27-8), Jason Heffernan (145, 34-10) and Tom Bunce (heavyweight, 24-14) all finished fifth. Ben Ferguson, at 152, also had a good record at 27-14 while wrestling against opponents from powers such as Mount St. Joseph (No. 1 in the state), Curley (No. 6) and McDonogh (ranked as high as No. 10). At the states, Spalding finished

ahead of traditional A Conference powers Gilman and Loyola, as well as St. Mary's and John Carroll -- also of the A Conference. "We'll return about 16 wrestlers and eight starters next year," Buckland said. "We hope to pick up where we left off."

First team at a glance

Nate Brooks, Annapolis, Soph., heavyweight (20-4): weight (20-4): Though just a first-year wrestler, Brooks' size (6 feet 4, 277) and poise often gave him an intimidating edge against opponents. He finished the year with 17 pins, a county championship and a region runner-up finish.

Carl Cicchetti, Chesapeake, Sr., 160 pounds (26-2): The slender Cicchetti (15 pins), ranked No. 4 in the state, used balance and sound technical skills to win the county title after being second the year before, and his second straight regional title. Along the way, he beat Baltimore City champs Leonard Bridgeforth (Patterson) and Dominique Camper (City) and twice defeated region champ WT Aye (North County). Cicchetti, fourth at the states last year, lost only two decisions, both to National Prep champ Sal Aquia. Torn cartilage forced him to default from the states after wrestling to the semifinals.

Chris Combs, Old Mill, Soph., 112 (35-1): Combs, ranked No. 2 in the state, became the first sophomore to win a state title in school history. He also won his second straight county title and, after being second at the regions last year, his first region crown. Combs outscored his region opponents by a combined 22-3, and at the states scored a pin, decision, major decision and default to win. This season, Combs (15 pins) has beaten three-time Carroll County and region champ Bobby Biden (Westminster, third in the states), Howard County champ J. C. Porter (Long Reach), state runner-up Nick Delonga (DeMatha) and county and region champ Ian Young (North Hagerstown). DeMatha's state champ Kyle Beckerman handed Combs his only loss, 6-1, on a last-second move.

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