1997 All-Metro wrestling

March 12, 1997|By Lem Satterfield

Coach of the Year

Henry Franklin, Calvert Hall: Calvert Hall was a threat to beat anyone it faced. Third-year coach Franklin, 27, and assistants Todd Crandell, Gary Baker and Dane Rianhard helped the No. 8 Cardinals (22-7) set a state record in dual-meet wins. Calvert Hall was 0-10 before Franklin took over, but was 11-8 and 14-8 the next two seasons. The Cardinals' four finalists -- all runners-up -- at the private school states were an area-best. Calvert Hall was fourth at MIAAs, eighth at National Preps and fifth at the states -- all school bests -- and had a tournament win over Baltimore County champ Eastern Tech. The Cardinals nearly knocked off Damascus (ranked No. 10 in the state) and Curley (ranked No. 9) in losses by six and one point, respectively.

Wrestler of the Year

Steve Kessler, Owings Mills: Ranked No. 1 in the state since his freshman season, and No. 3 nationally by USA Wrestling, Kessler went 148-0, becoming the state's second four-time state champ and the first to go unbeaten. Despite being dogged by an intestinal virus, Kessler, the first four-time All-Metro wrestling selection, won this year's state title, 6-2, over Southern of Garrett's Nathan Rickman in a rematch of last year's 145-pound final. The three-time All-Metro has 73 pins and 46 technical falls for his career, and likely will attend Blair Academy Prep school in Blairstown, N.J., which is ranked No. 1 in the nation. There, he'll try to improve his grades before moving on to the college ranks.

First team

Sal Aquia, Curley, Sr., 160 pounds (38-2): Ranked No. 1 in the state, Aquia (19 pins) won his second MIAA title and his first crowns at the states and National Preps. His most notable victory came via a 13-7 decision over Glenelg's two-time state champ Jeremy Lignelli. Aquia had single-season school records for victories and takedowns (119), and career records for pins (19) and takedowns (204). He also has 92 career wins.

James Axel, Aberdeen, Sr. (32-2): A two-time Harford County and region champ, Axel, ranked No. 5 in the state, finished first at the state tournament. Axel, who wrestled up at 125 for much of the season, lost just once at 119 -- in the state finals to Mardela's Rodney Stine. Axel was Harford County's co-Wrestler of the Year.

Jamie Blankenship, Eastern Tech, Sr., 189 pounds (36-2): Blankenship won the coun- ty and region titles after being second in both tournaments as a heavyweight last season. Unbeaten and ranked No. 1 in Maryland entering the state tournament, Blankenship took fourth in the meet's most competitive and talented weight class.

Mike Boettcher, Curley, Jr., 135 pounds (37-6): Boettcher, ranked No. 2 in the state, is the Friars' first two-time state champ and was runner-up at this year's MIAAs after being first last year. Boettcher, who was fifth at the National Preps Tournament, is 2-1 against McDonogh's No. 3 Joe Smith. Boettcher (94 career wins) holds the school records for career reversals (66) and has 149 career takedowns and 45 career pins.

Chris Combs, Old Mill, Soph., 112 (35-1): Combs (15 pins), ranked No. 2 in the state, became the first sophomore to win a state title in Old Mill history. He also won his second straight county title and, after being second at the regions last year, his first region crown. Combs dropped to 103 and outscored his region opponents by a combined 22-3, and at the states scored a pin, decision, major decision and default to win. Had a notable victory over Westminster's three-time county and region champ Bobby Biden (third at states). Combs' only loss was a 6-1 decision at 112-pounds to DeMatha's state champ Kyle Beckerman, who scored the decisive points in the closing seconds.

Tyrone Eaton, Northeast, Sr., 145 (27-1): Only a third-year wrestler, Eaton (12 pins) won the county and regional crowns after finishing second and fourth the previous seasons. In his state title bout, Eaton topped out with a 10-4 victory over Middletowne's No. 5 Zane Harshman, who had split wins against Frederick's 3A-4A state champ Shane Hildebrande. Eaton, an explosive takedown artist with a powerful upper torso, suffered his only loss at 160 pounds, a 3-2 decision to Arundel's two-time state runner-up Isaac Haertel. Eaton is also a B student with a 1,010 SAT score.

Will Filbert, McDonogh, Jr., 103 pounds (38-0): Ranked No. 1 in the state the entire season, Filbert won his second straight MIAA and private schools state titles and notched his 18th pin of the season to win the title at the National Preps tournament. Filbert is a repeat All-Metro selection as well.

Greg Forbes, Milford Mill, Sr., heavyweight (21-0): weight (21-0): Forbes, ranked No. 3 in the state, won his third county crown and his second region and state crowns. Forbes, a muscular 204 pounds, pinned 18 opponents this season, including his first at the state tournament in just 12 seconds. Big wins came over Howard's No. 2 Brian Neal, Owings Mills' No. 4 Anthony Smith, Lackey's No. 5 Josue Leon and Wheaton's No. 6 Steve Ray.

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